More visitors, more direct dollars infused into Philadelphia's economy. That's the synopsis of a new report from the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau and Tourism Economics. In 2018, 697,000 overseas visitors — a 7.5% year-over-year (YoY) increase — came to the Greater Philadelphia region, marking the fourth consecutive year of growth. Overseas visitors also contributed $723 million in direct visitor spending, generating $1.2 billion in economic impact, both modern-day records.
“Hospitality is one of the largest and fastest growing employment sectors in Philadelphia because we continue to see visitation rise across all sectors. Overseas visitors are incredibly important as they account for 57% of all international visitation and 79% of all international visitor spending,” said PHLCVB President and CEO Julie Coker Graham. “Every day our team is focused on telling Philadelphia's story globally. In 2018 our team hosted 96 influential global media and 334 travel trade professionals
in-market. By doing so, we're able to reinforce positive perceptions of the city and encourage and inspire future visitation.”
The PHLCVB also works in concert with local industry partners like the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, Visit Philadelphia and the Philadelphia International Airport. The destination's collective message is resonating: the American experience should begin in the city where the country was founded.
In 2018, nine of Philadelphia's 'top 10' overseas markets grew year-over-year (YOY). Philadelphia's top five markets include the United Kingdom, China, Germany, India, and France, respectively. Some of the notable highlights include:
- The United Kingdom delivered the highest number of overseas visitors to Philadelphia at 112,000 (an 3.1% YoY increase).
- China led all markets with $136 million in overall visitor spending (15.6% YoY increase), represented by 82,000 visitors, a 20% increase from 2017.
- Ireland saw dramatic gains as additional airline service from American Airlines and Aer Lingus helped boost travel to Philadelphia by 42%.
- Renewed strength from Germany (+3.1%), India (+8.3%), Italy (+4%), Spain (+10%), and sustained increases from South Korea (+8%) and the Netherlands (+7.1%) showcases the city's appeal in a variety of diverse markets.
- Overseas visitation is expected to grow 13.4% over the next five years, despite softened projections for the first half of 2019.
The PHLCVB, the official tourism promotion agency for the City of Philadelphia globally, operates representation offices in seven locations around the world and actively stimulates interest in Philadelphia across 23 global markets. In conjunction with, and under the direction of a global tourism team based in Philadelphia, these international offices work to amplify Philadelphia's message as a premier U.S. destination.
Some of the 2018 highlights include:
- The Philadelphia-based global tourism team attended 48 domestic and international trade shows in 14 countries, participated in 14 sales missions in 12 countries, and hosted 334 travel trade professionals from 21 countries on destination training tours of Philadelphia. The PHLCVB places an emphasis on “familiarization tours” for visiting overseas media and travel trade, delivering memorable experiences and driving consumer interest in key markets.
- In 2018, the organization hosted 96 journalists from 19 countries and tracked over 1,650 international stories in overseas travel trade and consumer media.
- Additionally, the PHLCVB leverages a network of global social media accounts, including
in-language Facebook pages in Germany and France, as well as in the Scandinavian region. In China, the PHLCVB produces content in Mandarin on WeChat, Weibo, and Toutiao. These efforts target destination content to individual markets and reach potential overseas visitors in places where they are likely to seek inspiration.
Along with PHL International Airport, the PHLCVB supports the development of more accessible pathways to the city and region, opening new direct flight routes from Europe and other overseas markets. Under the leadership of Rochelle Cameron, Philadelphia International Airport has developed new international service from Icelandair, American Airlines and Aer Lingus, strengthening Philadelphia's role as a gateway city to the United States.
“In 2018, we launched three new overseas routes, including additional service from Ireland, which saw visitation increase to Philadelphia by over 40%,” said PHL International Airport CEO Rochelle Cameron. “Also in 2018, we had 4.2 million international passengers touch down on our runways, a 6% increase from 2017 and a 17.1% increase since 2004. It's a trend made possible through the hard work of our staff and partners across the entire industry.”
To learn more about the 2018 overseas visitation results, and the PHLCVB's work in overseas markets, visit our media room.
The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) creates positive economic impact across the Philadelphia region, driving job growth, and promoting the health and vibrancy of our hospitality industry by marketing the destination and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and attracting overnight visitors. Our work engages our local community, as well as culturally and ethnically diverse regional, national and international convention, sporting event and tourism customers.