Margo DeRouchie, National Sales Manager for the Pennsylvania Americana/Berks County Tourism Region, recently reached out to me and several of my friends and colleagues asking if we would volunteer to help with an exciting and honorable opportunity. for Berks Tourism as we host the prestigious 2023 Pennsylvania Bus Association Annual Marketplace and Conference on March 27-28.
We all jumped on board and also praised DeRouchie for his efforts, which will end up showcasing much of the best that the Americana region of Pennsylvania has to offer. Our goal is to interest bus group tour operators in coming to Berks because during their visit they will also be injecting highly desirable tourist dollars into our local economy. This opportunity gives us the opportunity to showcase our traditions, culture, heritage and attractions, industries and monuments that have come into existence through our unique heritage and development.
The Americana Pennsylvania Area Visitors Bureau and the Holiday Inn Morgantown collaborated to deliver the winning bid. The partners will showcase the county’s many tourist attractions and assets to PBA member tour operators and tour bus companies.
PBA has owned Marketplace for over 25 years in destinations across Pennsylvania. The event brings together travel suppliers, coach operators and group leaders looking for exciting new destinations to visit. Additionally, 2023 is a landmark year as the Pennsylvania Bus Association celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Patricia A. Cowley, Executive Director of the PBA, announced the 2023 site selection at Marketplace 2022.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be hosting our next PBA Marketplace in Berks County, Pennsylvania,” said Cowley. “We have a strong relationship with Margo DeRouchie and the Americana team in Pennsylvania. Margo and her partners have planned fantastic familiarization tours for operator members attending the show. Additionally, the newly remodeled Holiday Inn, Morgantown will provide premier accommodations for all of our guests.
Equally excited about Marketplace 2023 is Alison Klein Sherman, president of Klein Transportation and incoming president of PBA Marketplace.
“As the Pennsylvania Bus Association’s incoming Market Chair and business owner and a native of Berks County, I’m excited to be going to Morgantown for Market 2023,” she said. “Working with the Americana Region of Pennsylvania has been great. Our committee is delighted to introduce the region to PBA suppliers and coach operator members. I look forward to working with the Holiday Inn Morgantown, Margo and Pennsylvania’s Americana Region.
Local hotel partners understand the importance of hosting the event. Holiday Inn Morgantown will take center stage for the two-day show. Coach operators and group leaders will experience first-hand the property’s convenient location, new accommodations, and friendly staff – all great assets for group accommodations.
After the show, it’s time for the Americana region of Pennsylvania to shine as the motor coach industry explores the wonders of Berks as a group travel destination. Six fabulous familiarization circuits are planned to highlight the attractions, restaurants, heritage, arts and natural beauty of the region. Experienced guides will travel with Marketplace guests to highlight points of interest and answer questions. Fun surprises and entertainment are planned to make visits memorable.
Here is a sample of the local tours we will offer:
Arts, Architecture, and Culture Tour with Charlie Adams: The GoggleWorks Center for the Arts is America’s largest integrated arts center. While touring the galleries, guests will tour artists’ studios, watch a hot glass demonstration, or create a work of art to take home. They’ll learn all about the city’s firefighter history and explore the many treasures of the Reading Area Firefighters Museum, including the fine furnishings of the famous John Wanamaker Room. Next, travelers will have lunch at the Peanut Bar or they could choose to have lunch at the Saucony Creek Franklin Station Pub, a beautifully restored historic station. Guests will take a tour of the Center Park Historic District and stroll through Charles Evans Cemetery to see or feel the spirits of residents. The tour of the city’s first historic district will also include a visit to The Gables at the Stirling Guest Hotel. Next, guests will learn why Reading was named Baseballtown with a special meet and greet tour of FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils affiliate, then learn about local culture with a visit to the Berks History Center.
History and Mountainside Scenic Views Tour with Corrie Crupi: Guests will experience the beloved historic landmark that sits atop Mount Penn, Reading Pagoda. Seven storeys high, it is the only pagoda in the world that has a hearth and a chimney. The views are exceptional. Just a mile away is the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower, which is owned by Reading. It was built in 1939 as a fire lookout tower and tourist attraction. After climbing 120 steel steps, guests will see the stunning 30-mile view from the upper observation deck. Next, the tour will visit historic Stokesay Castle for lunch and visit a keep, which is now used as a wine cellar. Built in 1931 and modeled after a 13th-century English castle of the same name, Stokesay Castle was once the vacation home of the Hiester family. Hiester spared no expense when it came to the 10-acre property he built for his fiancée. Local building materials and craftsmen were used, and great care was taken in duplicating hand-carved beams and leaded windows. After all this, it will be time to relax. Prost! Now is the time to visit Reading and Berks County’s German-American club, Reading Liederkranz, founded in 1885 and home to the award-winning Oktoberfest.
PA Dutch Treats & Twist Tour with Dave Kline: A tour of Dietrich’s Meats, home of quality fresh and smoked meats and Pennsylvania Dutch specialties. A tour and tour with Patrick Donmoyer and Eric Claypoole at the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, including a discussion of barn star art and a paint sample, “kum esse” (Dutch PA for come eat), will invite guests to tickle their tongues and eat till they taste AP Dutch cuisine at the restaurant Deitsch Eck (AP Dutch for Dutch Corner). Enjoy the music of Dave Kline and the Mountain Folk Band, musical ambassadors for the US Pennsylvania region and Berks County Conservancy and Berks Agricultural events. Pedal through Kutztown to see some barnyard stars, then enjoy a tour of the Rodale Institute, which is expanding the organic farming movement. Learn how to twist, a pretzel twist at Tom Sturgis Pretzels.
Train & Treasure Tour with Margaret Harner: Visit the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles in a former body factory that houses and preserves Pennsylvania-made vehicles like the Duryea. Enjoy a trip on the Colebrookdale Railroad and discover the treasures of the region in beautifully restored Edwardian-era coaches. Seasonal themes are offered throughout the year. Enjoy a house menu featuring local meats, cheeses and produce at The Other Farm Brewing Company. Next, visit a newly opened museum. General Carl Spaatz’s AAF National Museum abandons the conventional museum experience for an interactive experience that will engage the visitor directly with its exhibits. The living museum concept includes over 5,000 square feet of museum space with 10 exhibits and five interactive exhibits. Guests will end their day with a visit to the Daniel Boone Homestead. Famous pioneer Daniel Boone, who opened the American frontier through the Allegheny Mountains and into Kentucky, was born in Berks County, on the road to Mordecai Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln’s great-great-grandfather . The farm has been restored into a living history museum, illustrating the daily life of settlers in the region in the 18th century. Guests will discover how life in the area influenced Boone through living history demonstrations, historical tours, walks and more.
We have something to be happy about. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Tourism recently released the Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism in Pennsylvania 2020. The annual study measures tourism spending in all 67 counties of the Commonwealth, reporting five major categories of direct spending: accommodation; food and drink; retail; Recreation; and transportation. Due to the extensive analysis required to get accurate numbers, the results are 18 months behind the current calendar year. Therefore, the latest compilation reveals the dollars spent by travelers at Berks in 2020.
Since 2014, direct visitor spending has grown an average of $30 million per year in the Americana region of Pennsylvania. Due to the debilitating impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry, it’s no surprise visitor spending at Berks fell 30%, from $950.1 million in 2019 to $661.5 million. million in 2020. While the hospitality industry suffered revenue and job losses, municipalities realized a decline. in tax dollars. The decline in traveler spending underscores the role of tourism as an economic driver for all communities.
On a more positive note, visitors still spent more than $1.8 million a day in Berks in 2020. The 30% drop in travel revenue to the region was much less than the 37% drop in dollars from the tourism in Pennsylvania.
As Crystal Seitz, President of the Americana Region of Pennsylvania said, “I’m proud to be part of the hospitality industry in Berks County. Our partners have shown incredible strength, resilience and imagination in the face of adversity. As the office worked to educate and advocate for the community, our partners and local businesses did all they could to stay open, keep staff employed and meet the needs of the public. It was no small feat. Their success is everyone’s success.
Another positive development resulting from the pandemic is that car travel has become a popular alternative to international and air travel. In 2020, the Americana Area Visitor Center in Pennsylvania welcomed an unprecedented number of road trippers to Berks looking to enjoy the area’s many forms of outdoor recreation.
As COVID infections decline, all indicators point to growing optimism around travel. The tourism and hospitality industries are adapting to new travel standards. They are sure to bounce back as Americans continue to enjoy the experience of road tripping, road trips and discovering the wonders of places like Reading and Berks.
For more information on the tourism economy or 2023 bus travel in Berks, contact Crystal Seitz or Margo DeRouchie at 610-375-4085.
Dave Kline is an award-winning writer, photographer, host and producer, singer-songwriter, travel guide and community advocate. Contact him at [email protected]mail.com.