|Type||Destination marketing organization (non-profit)|
|Headquarters||30 S 17th St #2010, Philadelphia, PA 19103|
President and CEO
|Ed Rendell, Meryl Levitz, Manny Stamatakis|
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. In 1998, House Bill 2858, Act 174 designated VISIT PHILADELPHIA, then GPTMC, to serve as the official Regional Attractions Marketing Agency.
As the region's official tourism marketing agency, Visit Philadelphia works to build the Greater Philadelphia area's image, drive visitation and boost the economy. The organization utilizes robust campaigns, media relations, advertising, websites and social media to market the area and promote tourism. Its goal is to show potential tourists that Philadelphia is a destination to visit.
Philadelphia 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."
Prior to 2013, Visit Philadelphia was named The Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation (GPTMC). The name change was an effort to utilize a more self-explanatory moniker. In 2010, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. launched a new web platform, VisitPhilly.com.
Notable initiatives and programs
Philly, the City that Loves You Back
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. Though this was not the first campaign, it marked a change from earlier campaigns that mostly focused on the city’s historical artifacts in Center City, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The firm Longwoods International estimated that the “Place That Loves You Back” campaign was responsible for attracting more than 1 million new visitors on overnight and day trips to the region.
In 2009, Visit Philadelphia began a new campaign with the "With Love, Philadelphia XOXO" tagline.
Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay
In 2003, the slogan “Get your history straight and your nightlife gay” was created in order to attract more LGBT tourism. The first ads were vintage-inspired flyers with Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross, though later ads included the landmark 2004 TV spot “Pen Pals”.
Prior to the campaign, Philadelphia was not on the list of top 20 LGBT destinations. In response, the city became the first destination to run a gay TV commercial, and by 2010, moved up to tie for 9th position of places visited by gay and lesbian travelers, according to Community Marketing, an LGBT market research firm.
Reactions to the campaign were initially mixed, with 300 people responding to the TV ad, two-thirds of which were disapproving. In 2005, State Rep. Daryl D. Metcalfe (R., Butler) sent letters to fellow House members complaining that tax dollars were being used to "promote immoral behaviors." However, this did not catch on with other legislative members. The campaign was honored by the U.S. Travel Association, the Association of National Advertisers, Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, the Public Relations Society of America, and PRWeek for its creativity and performance in the marketplace.
Controversies and disputes
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 (March 16, 2016). "In Philadelphia, George Washington Slept Here — and Here". The New York Times. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
- "1998 Act 174". The official website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
- "About Visit Philadelphia". Visit Philadelphia. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
- Tourism, in Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia (Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, Rutgers-Camden).
- "Philadelphia's Tourism Marketing Organization Gets New Name". November 11, 2013. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
- 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).
- "Philadelphia, the Place that Loves You Back |". philadelphiaencyclopedia.org. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
- Siegel, B. (2011). The Power of Destination Marketing: "Pure Michigan" and Philadelphia "With Love" case studies [White paper]. Longwoods International. http://c526532.r32.cf0.rackcdn.com/The-Power-of-Destination-Marketing.pdf
- Dribben, Melissa (July 14, 2011). "How Philadelphia welcomed gay and lesbian tourism". Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Middleton, Josh (November 13, 2013). ""Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay" Campaign Turns 10 Today". Philly Mag.
- 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).