Benefiting from its location within a day-trip of one-third of the nation’s population, the Lehigh Valley has become a destination rich with unique sights and experiences for recreational, entertainment and cultural tourists. In fact, it’s No. 1 in the state for the highest percentage of spending by tourists on recreational visits to its great outdoors, which include more than 1,000 miles of streams and 123 natural heritage areas. As a result, the economic return on its environment is valued at more than $1 billion a year. Its great indoors are also valuable, with non-profit arts and culture organizations contributing $208 million annually and creating 6,900 jobs for the local economy.
Lehigh Valley Tourism Locations
Almost every community has a full schedule of festivals, fairs and cultural events, but the willingness of the stakeholders to work and market together has maximized the value of the region’s tourism assets. This has helped create an output of shared economic benefits, defined community character and increased growth that strengthens the sustainability of the regional tourism network.
Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton have proven that when it comes to attracting visitors to the region, development and tourism should go hand-in-hand. It’s a recipe all three cities have used for the kind of large-scale redevelopments, historic Main Street plans and grass roots arts initiatives that draw millions of visitors to the Valley annually.
The typical cultural event attendee is 55 or older, with an income of more than $80,000. About 69% of cultural event attendees are local, and 45% of them say they participate in the arts themselves. One of the top reasons people choose to visit the Lehigh Valley is "being at a place I've never seen before," according to Discover Lehigh Valley.
Easton State Theatre, Photo courtesy of Thomas Kosa
Allentown's Cedar Beach
Tourism Big and Small
The Lehigh Valley is known for high-profile attractions, such as Sands Casino and Resort, Dorney Park and ArtsQuest. However, there are also many smaller attractions such as wineries, museums and parks that attract people from outside the region and even from other states.
There is opportunity to further engage the non-typical cultural attendees with the arts. There is also great potential for crossover between recreational, cultural and entertainment tourists and for collaboration between the organizations that support these assets.
The range of art and cultural attractions in the Lehigh Valley reflects the diverse lifestyles of its residents. It includes pop-up street events, historic brick and mortar venues and everything in between. Generally, the highest concentration of arts and entertainment tourism can be found in the urban areas.
Expenditures from tourists and cultural visitors extends beyond admission costs. Non-residents who attend cultural events typically spend 148% more than locals on event-related activities during their visit.
Photo courtesy of Dorney Park