Lancaster County’s tourism industry surpassed pre-pandemic levels last year in terms of visitors and dollars spent and generated, setting a new record, according to Discover Lancaster’s Tourism Economic Impact Report 2021 released this week. Here are four takeaways from the report:
By the numbers
Lancaster County welcomed 9.13 million visitors who spent $2.3 billion in 2021. That’s a record, according to the study conducted by Tourism Economics, the same company that conducts a similar study for the State. Visits to Lancaster County were 32.1% higher than in 2020 (6.91 million) and 2.2% higher than in 2019 (8.93 million). Visitor spending improved 53.9% from 2020 ($1.5 million) and 3.2% ($2.23 million) from 2019.
Total sales for tourism-supported businesses increased to $3.25 billion, an increase of 33.1% over 2020 and 11% over 2019 levels.
Leisure for victory, but where are the business travelers and groups?
Leisure travel continues to make up the bulk of travel in Lancaster County, with business travel remaining below pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, domestic travel continued to partially substitute for international travel in 2021.
“Leisure travel was predominant last year, and we are working to further restore group travel in 2022, particularly meetings and conventions, as well as help stimulate a return to labor levels. that support our industry and allow it to make such a significant contribution to the overall economy of the region,” said Edward Harris, President and CEO of Discover Lancaster, the county’s official destination marketing organization. .
Harris credited sports travelers heading to pandemic-resistant Spooky Nook tournaments for boosting group travel in 2021.
Inflation and rising visitor numbers drive up average visitor spending
Due to the increase in the number of overnight visitors and consumer prices, the average expenditure per visitor trip was estimated at $252 in 2021, compared to $216 in 2020. International visitors spent an estimated $18.1 million, compared to $17.1 million in 2020.
Accommodation spending in Lancaster County rose sharply to $361 million, as record visitor numbers and rising prices drove a 106% year-over-year increase (10.2% above 2019 levels). Rising gasoline prices, coupled with increased spending on ridesharing and other services, led to a 62.9% increase in transportation spending (3.1% above 2019 levels).
With improved activity at foodservice establishments, spending rose 44.9% to $530 million (4.6% above 2019 levels). Entertainment spending was up 42.9% year-on-year (although 5.9% below 2019 levels), while retail spending was up 35.8% year-over-year ( 5.2% above 2019 levels).
Jobs and profitability not yet fully restored
These visitor expenditures supported 22,690 total county jobs, iincluding approximately 14,684 direct industry jobs (a 14.4% decline from 2019), which keeps tourism among the top 10 non-farm private sector employers in the county, but also shows that the sector a considerable number of jobs remain below pre-pandemic levels.
The report says that while visitation and visitor spending are slightly above 2019 levels, direct jobs in the tourism sector have yet to be fully restored and rising input and labor costs implementation could mean that many operators have not returned to normal levels of profitability.