How Visit Philadelphia is Innovating Through Self-Disruption

Editorial note: VISIT PHILADELPHIA is a sponsor of the Travel Disruption Summit, the annual symposium bringing together thought leaders and innovators in the travel industry in New York City on May 22nd, 2019. During the event, participants will discuss the opportunities for innovation in the traveler’s experience, including the aspects that most impact destinations such as discovery, in-destination experiences, loyalty and sustainability.

For more than two decades, VISIT PHILADELPHIAⓇ has worked hard to pump up Philadelphia’s image, motivate travelers to visit and boost our region’s economy. As an organization, we’re innovative and always at the ready to do something new to promote our favorite city in the world.

Along the way, there’s always been one constant - a special ingredient that helps propel our success. We’re always watching trends identified by travelers’ behaviors, and using the best of them to guide our strategy.

In this piece, I’ll detail three trends that we’ve found great success with—and you can too:

Millennials and Gen Z: Driving Disruption

They’ve matured on the internet and embrace the medium to cause change. They’re comfortable interacting with and trusting strangers through apps (ridesharing, homesharing), and spending their money to gather memories rather than material items. They’re the most likely generations to seek out the opinions of locals and a city’s authentic experiences, since insider knowledge is what they crave.

We’ve seen this specifically in the Philadelphia area through the development of a few city-based travel startups. For instance, by using Zeeno, visitors can instantly “find the best local things to see and do, with a wide variety of walking and driving tours that go beyond the typical tourist agenda” using local guides. Think drinks at hidden speakeasies, history lessons about the city’s (and nation’s) oldest streets, and primers on Philadelphia’s artists, musicians and tastemakers from an underground artist. Through the app, a tourist’s experience can be as carefully curated as they’d like. This is the future of leisure travel.

Micro-influencer: Smaller Following, Greater Impact

While Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez will continue to produce sponsored Instagram posts, 2018 brought the true rise of the micro-influencer, a social media personality with between 1,000 and 1,000,000 followers. Viewed as experts in their niche, these cost-effective micro-influencers speak to smaller, more targeted audiences and tout higher engagement rate and better sales conversions. The real innovation here comes with driving business. In fact, according to Experticity, 82% of consumers say their purchases are directly impacted by these individuals.

Since early 2018, VISIT PHILADELPHIA has engaged 54 micro-influencers to assist in promoting campaigns around hotel packages and events of the seasonal and blockbuster variety. They’ve garnered almost 1.4 million engagements and 1,200 link clicks, but the most impactful statistic comes in their conversion rate. An astonishing 13% of these clicks result in a room reservation or package sale. Over the last three years at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, VISIT PHILADELPHIA has co-sponsored the Amplify Philly House. In 2019, Amplify Philly hosted close to 50 hours of Philly-centric programming—including panel discussions, musical performances and wellness activities—over the festival’s final weekend. The house had more than 3,500 visitors take advantage of this programming, and we collected data from almost 9,000 Philadelphia fans and potential visitors—all micro-influencers in their own right.

Content Consumption: In the Palm of Your Hand—Literally

VISIT PHILADELPHIA  ’s mobile site

VISIT PHILADELPHIA’s mobile site

Content consumption today is vastly different than it was even five years ago, and it continues to evolve at a rapid pace. As facetime with consumers becomes more valuable, our challenge has gone from simply producing strong content to 1) producing strong content and 2) presenting it in a way that grabs and keeps an audience’s attention. Google reports that almost half of U.S. smartphone users are completely comfortable researching, booking and planning their entire trip on a mobile device, and one of three users negatively view brands with slow mobile experiences. Our recent digital strategy is reflective of these findings.

An organization’s mobile experience must be as good as if not better than its desktop one and include the same functionality, information and imagery. We recently redesigned visitphilly.com (check it out on mobile) to highlight articles, photos and videos focused on things to do and reasons to visit. In the year following the site optimization, we’ve seen great results: Organic search traffic rose by 50%, average page load time decreased by 20% and total visits rose 10% to more than three million.

VISIT PHILADELPHIA ’s  desktop site

VISIT PHILADELPHIA’s desktop site


VISIT PHILADELPHIA® is our name and our mission. Visit us on social media,
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