Summer is a great time in Washington County, and this year the season is even more exciting as we welcome back the fairs, festivals and events that make our county unique. We have welcomed back already the American Junior Golf Association, the Whiskey Rebellion Festival, Duncan Miller Antiques & Collectible Show, The Adios, National Pike Steam, Gas & Horse Association Summer Show and the Washington Wild Things, and they have attracted thousands of visitors to our county as well as generated millions of dollars of economic impact for our local businesses and communities. In fact, it is estimated that the upcoming DICK’s Sporting Goods PONY League World Series will generate nearly $4 million in economic impact through the hotel stays, shopping, restaurants and other activities of the international visitors participating in the tournament. The return of these events after last year’s pandemic is a welcome sign that our tourism economy is strong and our strategy to grow the industry is paying dividends.

While everyone considers these events and attractions in our county a great way to enjoy leisure or educational activities, tourism is also a major economic driver. According to the latest state report, direct traveler spending in Washington County is over $700 million a year and supports nearly local 6,000 jobs. These impressive statistics allow Washington County to rank as the second highest in traveler spending among counties in the Greater Pittsburgh Region, after Allegheny County.

Although these impacts are positive, the recent reinvigoration of our tourism industry was the result of the continuous promotion of our attractions and assets during the height of the pandemic. In 2020, many tourism agencies in our region were forced to reduce their efforts due to reduced funding. The Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency experienced similar funding challenges but was able to remain viable due to its partnership with the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. This unique venture between the groups allows for each organization to share costs, reduce duplication, and direct resources to common efforts. This cooperation allowed the agency to continue its operations and direct resources to advertising, promotion, and social media, keeping Washington County prominent throughout the pandemic. The results of these actions, which we are experiencing now, was a return of the attractions we all enjoy.

However, the resurgence of our tourism industry was not driven solely by one organization. It was the result of countless partnerships comprised of our tourism assets, local elected leaders, hoteliers, businesses, nonprofit groups and dedicated volunteers – all working together to create a thriving tourism and travel economy in Washington County. By working together, Washington County was prepared to capitalize on this summer season.

As the tourism season enters late summer, we will welcome events such as Dinosaur Train at the PA Trolley Museum, Corks & Kegs, Washington County Agricultural Fair, West Alexander Fair, The Covered Bridge Festival, Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest and other cultural, historical and entertainment events for our residents and visitors to enjoy.

The American spirit Lives Here in Washington County and together we welcome our visitors to share it.

Jeff M. Kotula is president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Promotion Agency.

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