I was travelling through Old City the other day. As I passed Independence Hall, I noticed a long line of people snaking around the block that had come to see this historic landmark. When you live and work in Philadelphia, it’s sometimes easy to forget that people travel from all around the world to the city where this nation was born, whether it be to visit the bustling Reading Terminal Market, snap a picture in front of the iconic Rocky statue, or see the symbol of our city, the Liberty Bell.
Philadelphia has seen growth across the board over the past decade in industries such as life sciences, information technology, and manufacturing. With the rich history that is imbedded in the city’s cobblestone streets and strong presence of museums, restaurants, and activities, it is no surprise that tourism is yet another sector that has seen huge amounts of growth.
According to Visit Philadelphia’s 2016 annual report, overnight leisure stays went from 7.3 million in 1997 to 14.7 million in 2016, an over 100 percent increase. Total visitation went from 26.7 million to 42 million, a 58 percent increase, and a total of 42 million people visited the Greater Philadelphia region last year, generating $11 billion in economic impact.
All of these numbers translate to a large amount of jobs in tourism in our region: there are 68,000 hospitality-related jobs in Philadelphia and 252,000 in the Philadelphia metro area.
The city has also hosted global events and gained international titles within the past couple of years, including hosting the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis visit in 2015 (which generated an estimated $500 million), hosting the Democratic National Convention in July 2016 (which generated approximately $230.9 million), along with being named the U.S.'s first World Heritage City in 2015.
This growth hasn’t gone unnoticed: U.S. News & World Report recently named Philadelphia the second best place to visit in the U.S. in 2017, and our city has gained similar rankings in recent years such as Lonely Planet’s No. 1 city to visit in 2016 and The New York Times’ No. 3 place to visit in the world in 2015.
Greater Philadelphia isn’t just a great place to do business; it is a global destination for people who want to learn more about where our nation began as well as see the innovation that is happening here and where it will take us in the future.
Rob Wonderling is chairman of the CEO Council for Growth and president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Contact him at email@example.com.