Economy & Business
3:16 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

New Branding Aims To Support Pittsburgh's Growing Tourism Industry

VisitPITTSBURGH reports tourism is healthy and growing in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, with an estimated $55 billion in spending tied to the industry.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

At its annual meeting Thursday, VisitPITTSBURGH highlighted some of the successes in tourism in the last couple of years.

The national group Tourism Economics releases data on the industry; 2012 numbers were recently released for Allegheny County.

“We had 11 million overnight stays in Allegheny County, travel related spending amounted to $5.5 billion, which was a 5 percent increase over the previous year, it employs 39,000 jobs in Allegheny County, which is 6 percent of our workforce and it accounts for $1.3 billion worth of wages,” said VisitPITTSBURGH President and CEO Craig Davis.

In 2013, 590 meetings and conventions were booked by VisitPITTSBURGH, compared to 576 booked in 2012. The booked meetings and conventions are for this and future years. Among them, the is National Association of Black Engineers. The group will hold its conference in Pittsburgh in 2018, after having held it here in 2012.

“It had been the second time that they had come to Pittsburgh to host their national convention,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “They bring about 15,000 members with them when they come and they leave behind, at least last time, they left behind about $15 million in direct spending.”

Other upcoming conferences include the USA Gymnastics 2014 Congress & Trade Show and P & G Gymnastics Championships; The Steelworker’s 2015 Connect Marketplace and Connect Sports Marketplace; The Steelworkers’ 2015 USW Joint Safety and Health Conference; and Anthrocon’s 2016 conference. The furries, as they’re called, have become a Pittsburgh institution with their annual convention.

“This year, they’ll end up leaving $35 million in Pittsburgh at the end of this next year,” said Davis, “that is throughout the time they’ve been with us. They consistently come back into the city at a time when we need them, during July 4 week. They are a great partner of ours.”

In addition to highlighting past successes, Davis unveiled a new logo for VisitPITTSBURGH, along with a new slogan: “Pittsburgh. Mighty. Beautiful.” Through branding research, Davis said it was determined that the city should not downplay its past, but embrace it while looking forward.

“Our rust belt impression that we want so badly to shed, actually is a good thing for us,” said Davis. “The focus groups told us time and time again that that blue collar impression is all-American and unpretentious, which is a good thing for us. It means we’re approachable and friendly.”

VisitPITTSBURGH and Mayor Bill Peduto said tourism is a strong industry in the region, and can also help boost the city’s future by drawing more people to have conventions and meetings or to move here.

“They come here with the expectation that we have these rusted old mills that are falling into the rivers and there’s no trees and it’s just this old Rust Belt city,” said Peduto. “Then they get here and are pleasantly surprised, then they spend a few days here and they fall in love with our city.”