Visit Philadelphia, formally known as the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC), is a private, non-profit organization that promotes leisure travel to the five-county Philadelphia region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties). It was founded in 1996 by the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Phialdelphia Mayor Edward G. Rendell created the GPTMC in 1996 to attract tourists; the corporation operated separately from the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. According to the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, the newly created agency "took a regional approach to 'Philadelphia and Its Countryside' and formed partnerships with similar organizations in the region: the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Board, Visit Bucks County, and the Brandywine Conference and Visitors Bureau, among others."
Its first national ad campaign took place in 1997. This campaign introduced the slogan "The City that Loves you Back" as both "a reply and a challenge to the 'I Love New York' slogan" and a way to counter the "antisocial reputation" that Philadelphia had developed. In 2009, Visit Philadelphia began a new campaign with the "With Love, Philadelphia XOXO" tagline.
Joyce Levitt, who worked for Visit Philadelphia from 2003 to 2012 and served as CFO for seven years, embezzled $210,000 from the organization between September 2005 and the discovery of the fraud in 2012. Visit Philadelphia did not report the misconduct to authorities, instead allowing Levitt to quietly resign and pay full restitution. In 2014, following media reports, the Philadelphia District Attorney conducted a grand jury investigation leading to the prosecution of Levitt. In May 2016, in a plea agreement with prosecutors, Levitt pleaded guilty to theft, receiving stolen property, and fraud, and was sentenced to three years' probation and community service; she also forfeited her accounting license.
In 2014, the Philadelphia City Controller's office issued a report urging the consolidation of Visit Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. The report found that the agencies had occasionally clashed, had competing slogans, and did not adequately coordinate efforts, and concluded that merging the two agencies could save $1 million in administrative costs annually. The report found that from 1993 to 2013, "the annual number of overnight leisure travelers to Philadelphia increased by 84 percent" and Visit Philadelphia was credited for about two-thirds of that increase. The report contrasted this to business travel (the responsibility of PHLCVB), which was "essentially flat since 1997." The report, found, however, that PHLCVB had a better return on investment ("$74 for each tax dollar spent as opposed to $69 per tax dollar spent by Visit Philadelphia") because business travelers tend to spend more than tourists.
- Strauss, Robert (16 March 2016). "In Philadelphia, George Washington Slept Here — and Here". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-03-28.
- Tourism, in Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia (Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, Rutgers-Camden).
- Fact Sheet: VISIT PHILADELPHIA's 20-Year Timeline (1996-2016): Twenty Years of Greater Philadelphia's Tourism Marketing Corporation, Visit Philadelphia September 12, 2016.
- Richardson Dilworth, "The City that Loves you Back" in Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia (Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, Rutgers-Camden).
- Chris Palmer, Visit Philadelphia ex-CFO pleads guilty to theft, fraud, Philadelphia Inquirer (May 12, 2016).
- Chris Hepp, Misuse of $210K handled quietly by city's marketers, Philadelphia Inquirer (June 6, 2014).
- Chris Hepp, City controller: combine Philadelphia's two marketing arms, Philadelphia Inquirer (September 10, 2014).