Here is what is behind the new travel marketing campaign in Lancaster, which offers free flights for meeting organizers | Local business

Discover Lancaster’s new marketing campaign is a response to the fact that business tourism in Lancaster County is still down 21% compared to pre-pandemic days.

Much of the significant return in the local tourism business has brought a surge of tourists.

In an effort to increase business travel, Discover Lancaster is partnering with Southern Airways Express in a new partnership that offers qualified meeting organizers free flights to Lancaster from Washington, DC, and Pittsburgh. They want to bring new meetings, events and conventions to Lancaster. Tickets can range from $ 39 to $ 89 one way. The offer is valid until April 30. Southern began its route to Washington a little less than a year ago.

“This new initiative focuses on the business of meetings and conventions, because it is this component of the group that takes the longest to recover – after sports and buses – so we want to try to stimulate the meeting segment as much as possible this year,” he said. .Edward Harris, President and CEO of Discover Lancaster.

As part of the joint effort, Harris said the travel agency spends $ 20,000 from mid-March to late April on advertising for the Pittsburgh Business Times, the Washington Business Journal, Meetings Today and geotargetted digital advertising with ClickUPON. No one has signed up yet, but Harris said the campaign is still early. He encourages potential participants to click on links to the action.

“As a brand new initiative, the wider awareness created by this promotion in the meetings market is just as important as any specific numerical goals,” Harris said. “Web traffic tells us that there is considerable interest in considering Lancaster County as a meeting place, and we are optimistic that in the near future we will have planners who will organize a visit to our area and be able to show them a variety of wonderful places and options we offer. «

Prior to the pandemic, group travel (including meetings and conventions) accounted for 37% of overnight stays in the area annually, or 592,551 overnight stays. Harris said group travel now accounts for about 16% of all bookings, or 256,238 room nights. Group trips include meetings, bus groups and sports tourism.

The marketing campaign aims to tap into a new sector of meetings created by the pandemic, said Mark Sisters, chief commercial officer of Southern Airways Express. As the number of people working from home increases, companies are looking to bring employees together on quarterly meetings, Chester said.

Southern Airways Express, a suburban airline that operates 32 flights a week from Lancaster Airport in Mannheim, is also looking to resume its business travel. Chastory said the housing industry is experiencing a similar coup from most business travelers to most travelers.

Southern Airways Express, the airport’s only commercial carrier, started flying from Lancaster Airport to Dulles International Airport outside Washington three times a day in June. He also added new weekly flights to Nantucket, Massachusetts.

The low level of group travel is felt in low weekday spending at businesses such as restaurants and hotels, Harris said.

The surge in holiday travel over the past eight months has helped the tourism industry move away from the pandemic. Harris said the number of dwellings in the second half of 2021 was equal to, if not better than, the figures for the same period before the 2019 pandemic.

The mix of travelers changed after the pandemic, said Kevin Moloy, executive director of the Lancaster County Convention Center.

“Vacation trips are burning,” Molloy said. “We have a different pie than in 2019.”

Molloy said congress trips and meetings are resumed with contracts to land a conference center in 2022 for 2022 events, which is rare.

As for attracting business groups, Moloy said the virtual tours provided during the pandemic were excellent, but even better to attract planners to see the facilities available in the county, as well as the types of restaurants and activities available in the area. .

“There’s nothing like hey, come and see,” Moloy said.

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