New visitor’s guide unites area towns

By on March 28, 2012

Lancaster County has been a top tourist destination for decades, seeing no signs of waning. According to the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau, about 11 million visitors come to Lancaster every year, spending almost $1.8 billion. In 2009, Forbes Magazine named Lancaster County as one of the Ten Best American Town to Visit by Car. But ask most retailers and they will confirm that the northeastern end of Lancaster County does not see a significant part of this market. Downtown Ephrata, Inc. (DEI) believes the area can realize a greater impact from tourism with a coordinated, focused marketing strategy. Thus, the idea of a comprehensive, multi-town visitor guide was born.

Executive Director Marsha DiBonaventuro explains. "The strategy is simple. Instead of each tourist destination and attraction marketing to the visitor individually and separately, why not market the whole area as the destination. The individual cost of advertising is lower because much of the overall costs are shared. In addition, visitors are looking for a variety of things to see and do, with limited time to spend. They do not want to work hard to figure out how to get to all these places, or worry that they are too far away from each other. Gas prices may be shooting up to record highs this summer, so a marketing piece that motivates the tourist to make the drive from somewhere else is imperative."

DEI reached out to the boroughs of Denver, Adamstown, and New Holland to discuss the concept. It was not a hard sell; each saw the value of marketing the area together as a major tourist destination. Denver, though smaller in size than their partners, welcomed the opportunity to highlight their own unique assets.

Borough Manager Michael Hession stated, "The Borough of Denver is excited to partner with Downtown Ephrata, Inc. and representatives from Adamstown Borough and New Holland Borough to highlight all of the unique features of this section of Lancaster County. Through the distribution of this regional Visitor’s Guide, we will be able to share with people visiting the region important information concerning our local economies, our scenic open spaces, and the recreational opportunities available to all."

Adamstown’s Mayor David Buckwalter and New Holland’s Mayor Wilbur Horning also supported the idea of a regional guide. Each municipality supplied the marketing team with letters of support and introduction, and offered guidance in their approach to area businesses.

Since this destination geographically would incorporate several towns, DEI recognized that it needed to identify the area with a name that united the towns in the eyes of the tourist. (For example, Columbia, Wrightsville, and Marietta refer to their area as "the River Towns." "The Hill Country" in central Texas encompasses several small towns that are destinations individually). A unifying name brings to mind an image and an expectation for the visitor.

The name chosen for the visitors guide for Ephrata, Denver, Adamstown, and New Holland is "the historic Cocalico Valley: the heart of history in northeastern Lancaster County."

The Guide will include area maps, photographs, a brief history of each town, and a master listing of events. Though the Guide is a printed piece, the Guide will also be available on-line, giving everyone a web presence on a dedicated "Cocalico Valley Visitors Guide" web page. This is the location where potential visitors may request a copy of the Guide be mailed. DEI has already received such requests, from visitors as far away as California and Texas and as close as Pittsburgh (and a few even closer).

Guides will be distributed specifically at the Pennsylvania rest stops and tourist centers within this region of the State, as well as local tourist centers and high-tourist areas.

Said DiBonaventuro, "Approximately 2/3 of all visitors to the County say they will visit again. And with the primary feeder markets for tourism outside neighboring counties (Philadelphia, northern New Jersey, and New York City) being such an easy drive, we believe there is an opportunity to develop a loyalty between the visitor and the area. Some of our local destinations have successfully done this. Why not our other local gems?"

Anyone interested in securing an individual ad, or a group ad, should call the DEI office at 738-5060 or email at info@downtownephrata.org. Businesses may also call the Integra Publishing sales office at 940-6739. The final deadline for ads is April 13.

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