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Philadelphia Tourism launching campaign to lure black travelers
By Suzette Parmley
Philadelphia Inquirer (October 4, 2009) Wanted: Well-traveled, technologically savvy,
energetic African Americans to sample the City of Brotherly Love's
nightlife, culture, and rich history.
To get those travelers here, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing
Corp. is launching an aggressive campaign today called Philly 360. While
the tourism group has marketed to African Americans since 1997, this is
the first time it is targeting the emerging and coveted group of urban
African Americans under 40 who travel.
"It's not to make us Atlanta. We want to have the buzz of Atlanta," said
Patricia Washington, vice president of cultural tourism for the
marketing firm. "Philly has a lot that it can deliver."
Recent studies show African American travelers were getting younger and
African American buying power was at $913 billion last year, or 8.5
percent of all U.S. buying power, up from 7.4 percent in 1990, according
to the Selig Center for Economic Growth.
Nationwide, African American travelers are more likely to have been born
between 1955 and 1981; they are quick to adopt mobile technology; and
they often seek out urban travel experiences rather than rural areas,
according to a May 2009 joint report by the U.S. Travel Association and
The campaign is called Philly 360 because it aims to give visitors a
full, 360-degree view of all the city offers. Its goal is to get
Philadelphia on the list of hot spots for African Americans, joining
destinations such as Atlanta, New York, Baltimore, Washington, and
Perhaps the tourism group's biggest marketing tool is its "creative
ambassadors" - nine trendsetters in the local arts, culture, film, and
business community who were chosen by the marketing firm in February as
the campaign's first faces.
The ambassadors, all born and raised here, are prominently featured in
the online videos at gophila.com/philly360, which debuts today, and the
Philly 360 hard-cover book that the marketing firm distributed to a few
hundred influential people in other major cities.
"Philadelphia is growing out past puberty," said Rah Crawford, 36, a
visual artist and founder of NPIC-Art and a Philly 360 ambassador. "For
so many years, it was a kind of backpack and jeans city - a grassroots,
"But with all the new development, with the high-rises and businesses,
the cultural landscape has had a scenic change in style and fashion," he
said. "I have seen an upgrade - an evolution."
Fellow ambassador Tayyib Smith, cofounder of two.one.five magazine and
president of Little Giant Media Inc., the company that produced the
Philly 360 book, said his goals included helping to make Philadelphia "a
first-tier market for everything."
"There is no city in America that has a richer history for African
Americans, in terms of civil rights, politics, and music," Smith, 38,
said. "Marian Anderson, Kenny Gamble, and John Coltrane all got their
The marketing firm is spending $300,000 a year for the next three years
on Philly 360 - the same amount it invested on launching the successful
2003 initiative to increase gay and lesbian visitors.
That campaign, called "Philadelphia - Get Your History Straight and Your
Nightlife Gay," was originally to run three years, from 2003 to 2006.
The tourism group has since spent $2.1 million on the continuing effort
that has won numerous marketing awards and yielded positive results.
The tourism group found that for every dollar spent on marketing toward
the gay and lesbian community, it got a return of $153 in direct
spending by gay travelers. Philadelphia is now the 13th-most-popular gay
destination in America, according to a recent study by Community
Marketing Inc. The city had not even cracked the Top 20 before the 2003
The tourism group hopes African Americans will be the next emerging
clientele. Ads will run on Kiss-FM in New York and Radio One in
Philadelphia, New York, Washington, and Baltimore starting next month.
The marketing firm is also making extensive use of social networks to
get the Philly 360 message out, including a Twitter @360 account, which
has 600-plus followers, Twitter @visitphilly, with more than 3,000-plus
followers, and a Visit Philly Facebook page, with another 3,000-plus
Niche marketing, like Philly 360, is another way to increase revenue at
a time when competition for tourism dollars is fierce, said Greater
Philadelphia Tourism Marketing president and chief executive officer
Meryl Levitz. Leisure travel volume will be down 2.5 percent this year
compared with a year earlier, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
"We have to use this time to tease out another market," Levitz said.
"You can't make more travelers. You really do have to take them away
from somebody else."