The end of an era in Philadelphia tourism
After working for decades to put Philadelphia on the map, Meryl Levitz is stepping down as President and CEO of Visit Philadelphia.
Philadelphia will soon say goodbye to a champion of the city's tourism industry.
Meryl Levitz is the founding President and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, the region’s official tourism marketing agency, which launched in 1996. Prior to this role, she served as Vice President of Tourism for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and co-founded the Center City Proprietors Association.
Now, after more than 40 years working to put the city on the map, Levitz announced on January 19 that she has made the difficult decision retire from her position with Visit Philadelphia. Despite her unending passion for the Philadelphia region, Levitz said she wants to “pass the baton” while the agency is in a good place, and while she has “energy and ability.”
The Board of Directors of Visit Philadelphia have launched a nationwide search to find Levitz’s replacement. Levitz said she expects to retire within the year but will remain at the forefront of Visit Philadelphia until she and the board have identified the right person for the job.
To determine the impact that Levitz has made on Philadelphia’s tourism industry, you only need to check the numbers. According to statistics compiled by Visit Philadelphia, the area’s tourism business has come a long way since the agency began its efforts (with Levitz at the helm):
In the past two decades, overnight leisure visitation in the region has increased more than 100 percent, growing from about 7 million in 1997 to nearly 15 million in 2016.
In 1996, leisure tourism accounted for 14 percent (250,000) of hotel room nights booked in Center City that year. Now, the number has jumped to 32 percent, comprising more than one million bookings.
Fourteen years ago, Saturday became and has remained the busiest night of the week for Center City hotels. In 2017, Saturdays saw for the first time an average hotel occupancy of 90 percent.
The Philadelphia region enjoyed 42 million domestic visitors in 2016, 88 percent of which were leisure travelers.
The tourism industry has supported more than 100,000 jobs in the region over the past 21 years, accounting for $50 billion in wages.
Stay tuned for a full-length version of this story in the January 31 edition of AL DÍA.