Diverse destination BY BERNARD HARRIS, Staff Writer
Lancaster County, Kathleen Frankford contends, is no one-trick pony.
"It's probably the most diverse destination in the country," she said.
Sure, it is known for its Amish and the outlet shopping that attracts people by the busload. But, there is also live entertainment, dining and lodging.
And, "within each of those categories, you have such a wide range of offerings," Frankford said.
Within live entertainment, there is theater downtown, national acts performing at the American Music Theatre and Biblical spectacles at Sight & Sound.
Lodging ranges from beautiful hotels in the county, the downtown hotel and convention center and quaint bed & breakfasts.
And, shopping options span interesting boutiques, farmers markets, outlets and a regional mall.
"The product is so diverse and unique. It's going to be such a fun thing to market, to really get my arms around and embrace it and strengthen the brand," she said.
Frankford takes over Monday as the county's marketer-in-chief.
As the new president of the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau, she will lead efforts to market 700 hotels, motels, restaurants, stores and attractions that make up the county's tourism industry and bureau membership.
Travel and tourism rank as the county's second largest industry, just behind agriculture.
The county's 10 million visitors annually bring nearly $1.8 billion to the local economy. Directly and indirectly, that spending is responsible for employing more than 22,000 people, bureau statistics show.
To keep those people employed and keep that money coming in, Frankford hopes to use the array of attractions to bring visitors here and keep them coming back.
"A lot of counties have one brand or one thing that defines them, and we have all of these great things," she said.
"The challenge will be to get that message across to the people who are most likely to come to Lancaster or have been here before."
Frankford, 44, said Thursday that she was looking forward to delving into her new role, but she didn't have any specific plans.
First, she was closing out her position as vice president of sales and marketing at American Music Theatre. She has managed the sales, marketing and box office of the large Lincoln Highway East theater for more than two years.
Previously, she was vice president of marketing and sales for the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg.
A mother of three children, ages 11, 12 and 13, Frankford holds a bachelor's degree in communications from Millersville University and a master's degree in public relations from Temple University.
The visitors bureau is not new to the Harrisburg-area resident. Last year, she served on the board of the organization, and she had previously served on the marketing committee.
This week, she'll begin working at a deeper level. She'll be meeting with staff members, discussing ongoing operations and data gathered by the bureau on visitors and the tourism industry.
Frankford is a believer in "data mining," in which statistics and visitor responses are used to direct outreach efforts to particular interests. Visitors interested in the Amish in the spring also may be interested in harvest-themed events in the fall.
Frankford hopes the information will make the bureau's advertising more efficient. Part of the impetus to do so comes as the bureau faces dwindling state support and must make due with less funding.
Frankford said the bureau likely will continue to market the county through television advertisements and direct mail.
The television ads were usually shown in the Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., markets to attract visitors within a few hours driving time of Lancaster.
That traditional advertising likely will target older people, she said. To attract younger visitors, the bureau may turn more to digital media and Internet sites, she said.
Some 60 percent of visitors to Lancaster County are repeat visitors, that data shows. It is important to keep them coming back and, hopefully, develop them as positive spokespeople.
"Word of mouth is huge," she said.
"I see great things coming in 2013. I think it's going to be a great year for Lancaster County," she said.
Frankford replaces Christopher Barrett, who left the bureau in July after serving as president for five and a half years.
Joel Cliff, the visitors bureau media relations manager, said he could not release a salary figure for the new president.
A check of the organization's nonprofit filing with the Internal Revenue Service shows Barrett's salary was $112,758 in 2011, the latest records available.
nAbundance of attractions makes county marketable to repeat visitors from New York to Washington, D.C.