Tourism

Pictured is the entrance to Shawnee State Park along Route 30 on Monday.

The Bedford County Visitors Bureau hopes to see some new faces at the county’s popular destinations this summer.

Dennis Tice, director of the bureau, said tourism leaders are expecting to see crowds from outside the region begin traveling to the county for recreation as more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We believe people will be ready to travel this summer,” he said. “If it goes as expected, we should have a good year.”

The visitors bureau budget, which is mostly funded through the county’s 2% hotel room tax, took a hit in the months following the pandemic due to the decrease in travel. Tice said the bureau’s budget for the year was under $300,000 — down from about $500,000 in “normal” years.

“We finished about 56% of what’s normal,” Tice said about the past 12 months, noting the timeframe of the pandemic did not line up directly with the bureau’s fiscal year budget.

“It actually turned out a little better than we thought,” he added. “We created a realistic — slightly pessimistic — budget.”

Tice noted that hotel traffic from commercial vehicles and the Omni Bedford Springs Resort’s ability to attract guests greatly helped during the pandemic.

While the tourism bureau is “weathering the storm” by limiting its paid advertising, Tice said it is in need of additional revenue.

“We could end up running on fumes,” he said.

Looking ahead, Tice said the bureau is focusing more on social media to promote the county, as opposed to the more expensive distribution of print advertising to other parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. He noted the bureau owns six billboards along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which has helped during a time of loss revenue.

Those billboards were used to promote the county’s outdoor recreation during the pandemic, which remained popular during the time of social distancing. Tice said the bureau is counting on the return of the county’s larger festivities and events that were canceled in 2020 due to social gathering limits, like the Bedford Fall Foliage Festival.

While the bureau is optimistic those events will happen this year, Tice said there is still uncertainty about the tourism industry.

“Some of it depends on the government,” he said. “They can throw a wrench into things.”

He added this biggest hurdle is whether enough of the population will feel safe to travel following the pandemic.

“A lot of it has to do with visitor confidence,” he said. “There’s a fairly hefty part of society that is still hesitant. The question is whether people will feel confident and safe to move about.”

Contact Will DeShong at wdeshong@bedfordgazette.com; 623-1151, ext. 150.

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