Governor Rendell Announces Success of VISITPA; VisitPA.com and 800-VISITPA on Par for Record-Breaking Year

HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 29 /PRNewswire/ — Governor Edward G. Rendell today announced that VisitPA.com, the official tourism Web site of Pennsylvania, and 800-VISITPA, the official toll-free tourism phone number, have experienced double-digit growth through the first two quarters of 2005 largely due to innovative and effective advertising campaigns.

“The goal of our advertising is to create more interest and attract more visitors to Pennsylvania,” Governor Rendell said. “It’s working. More visitors are calling us for information and more consumers are checking out what the commonwealth has to offer by visiting our Web site.”

An innovative and groundbreaking use of Web technology significantly increased traffic to VisitPA.com. Page views for Pennsylvania’s tourism portal soared 44 percent compared to the same seven-month period in 2004, and visitor sessions increased by 22 percent. Average page views per session and average length of session were also substantially higher than previous year benchmarks.

The rise in traffic this spring and summer has been a direct result of the road trip blogs written by travelers in Pennsylvania’s “Real People. Real Road Trips.” campaign. The goal for the campaign was to maximize the visibility and immediacy of Pennsylvania road trip itineraries through first-person storytelling, while also being the first state tourism office to utilize blogging technology as the focus of a marketing campaign. By leveraging consumers’ interest and the user-generated content in an online relations campaign, Pennsylvania was able to drive a 225 percent increase in traffic to VisitPA.com’s existing road trip itinerary pages this spring, compared to 2004.

Other factors that contributed to VisitPA.com’s traffic increase included a localized guide to Discover Appalachia, a geo-tourism initiative from National Geographic Traveler; the Blue Ribbon Passport to agricultural tourism attractions; the VisitPA.com Mountain Biking Team; an online amusement park contest; and industry leading online marketing campaigns that featured rich media banner ads, search marketing and monthly emails. Year-to-date traffic for VisitPA.com has also benefited from two earlier promotions. A Groundhog Day Web cast in February, together with the viral site GroundhogChase.com, and January’s Cabin Fever Month “Stay One Night, Get the Next One Free” promotion. The latter promotion helped ensure Pennsylvania a considerable increase in the number of people booking hotels via the Web site. Compared to 2004, the number of room nights booked on VisitPA.com rose 141 percent.

Call volume to 800-VISITPA for the first 6 months of 2005 increased by 18 percent over that of the 2004 and is already at 80 percent of total volume for 2004.

“I told our call center operators to sell Pennsylvania rather than just take orders for information about the commonwealth,” Governor Rendell said. “Our goal is to create an excellent customer experience when visiting Pennsylvania and that experience starts with a call to 800-VISITPA. Callers are thrilled with the attention and dedication that is available 24 hours per day from our staff.”

Call center operators received hospitality training to help them understand how to engage callers for longer periods of time, resulting in more information shared, greater benefits to the traveler and more reservation bookings. Call center operators, or “Keystone Concierges,” are now helping visitors with everything from directions and attraction location to accommodation bookings and destination details.

Call center operators now spend more time on the line with callers seeking information. Inquiries about the state’s myriad of events, attractions, and unique destinations surged during the first 6 months of 2005, and nearly surpassed the number of calls requesting the Pennsylvania Travel Guide for the first time ever.

The Pennsylvania Tourism Office, under the state Department of Community and Economic Development, is dedicated to fulfilling the needs and aspirations of travelers by presenting them with the information and resources they need to plan and enjoy the activities, attractions and destinations that are uniquely Pennsylvania. For more information about Pennsylvania’s tourism industry, go to http://www.visitpa.com/, or call 800-VISITPA.

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