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Philly tourism organization celebrating its 15th year

After 15 years, tourism’s boomtown. Reports have found visitors equal big bucks.

In the 15 years since Philadelphia’s tourism and marketing organization was created, officials for the group say the city has gone from a cheesesteak-and-Liberty-Bell “one-story town” to a well-rounded vacation spot.

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation yesterday touted these gains on its anniversary by releasing reports detailing the impact of tourism marketing on the region. The GPTMC is responsible for advertising campaigns like the wildly successful “Philly’s More Fun When You Sleep Over” and “With Love, Philadelphia XOXO.”

Bill Siegel, chairman and CEO of Longwoods International, did extensive case studies on Philadelphia’s tourism and said that every one dollar spent on those campaigns generates $100 in direct visitor spending plus $11 in state and local taxes.

Overall, 37.4 million people visited in 2010 with 33.1 million of them coming not for history or culture, strictly, but simply leisure. Leisure visitors have increased by 10 million since GPTMC first started advertising in 1997, the group found.

“Leisure visitors are people who come here because they want to. They have chosen to come here to relax or pursue a particular passion,” Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of GPTMC, said.

Levitz credits the increasing number of annual events and attractions in Philadelphia that keep tourists returning to the area, adding that “we aren’t a one-story town anymore.”

“On the first visit to Philadelphia people go for the [Liberty] Bell, [Independence] Hall, and cheese steaks. The second and third visits are more dining, shopping, and special events,” another GPTMC official, Jeff Guaracino, said.

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