As newly-appointed executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitors Bureau, Fritz Smith will lead continued growth in tourism within Centre County. Smith is a true reflection of a hospitality expert and son of the Keystone State, aiming to promote the county’s outdoor adventure, world-class culture, unexpected history, and storied local traditions. Connect recently caught up with Smith to chat about being named executive director and his plans for rebranding the bureau on local, statewide and national levels.
What interests you about the CPCVB?
The State College region offers a fascinating mix of beautiful country, vibrant university community, and charming small town that presents a fascinating and unique challenge. We’ll look to identify new market segments and enhance the destination’s year-round appeal, particularly during the winter season.
What are your plans as executive director?
To ensure that we level the playing field in terms of investment in our destination. To get there, we’re working hard right now to make the case for a room tax increase. Of 67 counties in Pennsylvania, we have the 66th lowest rate at 2.5 percent. Creating a stable flow of revenue will allow the region to catch up from a technology standpoint and increase the amount of pure advertising and marketing dollars we employ to attract visitors. I feel like we’ve been fighting with one hand tied behind our back.
What are some of the initial steps to rebranding the CPCVB?
Always start with research—That’s what we did earlier in the year, something that my predecessor, Jeff Vasser, insisted upon. We learned through asking travelers from a 4- to 6-hour radius away from us what they thought when they heard Central PA CVB, and it turned out they thought that meant Harrisburg, Hershey, Carlisle. That’s geographically incorrect as we in Centre County are truly in the middle of the state. As you know, perception is reality, so we have work to do on this front. I’m fortunate to have a very engaged and talented marketing committee, so we’re getting great input from them and are building a plan to address.
How will a rebrand be implemented differently on local, state and national levels?
That remains to be seen and is very dependent upon our success in getting a room tax increase. Certainly, we’ll spend time initially socializing the new identity with our stakeholders, explaining the reasoning behind it, the vision, the strategy, and how it will be executed.