Every year, millions of tourists visit Lancaster County without venturing into its urban center — or in some cases, without even realizing it has one.
Phil Lapp thinks it’s time to change that.
Lapp is brand ambassador for loKal, a company he co-founded last year with his wife, Annamarie, and their friends, Michael and A.J. Simmons. The name is Norwegian for “local.”
It offers small-scale, curated experiential tours, personalized concierge services and event planning.
Over the next six months, loKal plans to study the feasibility of creating a “loop” tour in and around the Red Rose City.
This week, Lapp briefed City Council on the idea.
While pricing, vehicle type and other details remain to be worked out, loKal envisions a circuit linking key attractions, such as the LancasterHistory campus, Penn Square and so on. There could be, say, 10 stops on an hourlong loop, Lapp said.
In-person guides could provide context and answer questions, or there could be recordings available in multiple languages. Patrons would be able to track the tour vehicles on their phones and hop on or off as they chose.
The concept has been successful in other cities Lancaster’s size, Lapp said. He and his colleagues intend to research those models as part of their due diligence.
Lapp said the service would be much different than the downtown trolley operated by the Red Rose Transit Authority, which has been flirting with cancellation due to low ridership.
In contrast, loKal intends to offer the kind of premium, one-of-a-kind experience sought out by a new generation of travelers.
“They want something that's curated, that’s personal,” Lapp said.
His company would couple the service with a marketing effort specifically focused on branding the city and promoting it as a destination in its own right.
“We want it to be something Lancaster is proud of,” Lapp said.
The hope would be to launch next spring, he said.
Marty Hulse, spokesman for the volunteer group LEADS — Lancaster Economic Action for Downtown's Success — said he’s intrigued.
“I’m all for something that’s going to encourage people to come downtown,” he said.
Lancaster City Alliance President Marshall Snively said it sounds “fantastic.”
It would complement the alliance’s efforts to draw more people to Lancaster, he said, as well as those of City Hall’s Lancaster Office of Promotion, which operates the Penn Square visitor center.
The office’s director, Annie Weeks, concurred.
“Any way we can help them, we will,” she said.