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United Way of Lancaster County


Online community survey launches Lancaster tourism study

The Lancaster City Welcome Center in Penn Square. (Source: City of Lancaster)

City Hall is kicking off the creation of a “tourism master plan” for Lancaster, and it’s asking residents throughout the region to weigh in via an online questionnaire.

Over course of the next year, the “Lancaster City Welcome Initiative” will analyze the city’s existing visitor attractions and amenities and their role in the local economy.

It will then look at “public investments, promotions and projects” that could further showcase the city’s offerings and bolster economic development. “The resulting plan will help shape the city’s tourism focus and promotions over the next 10 years,” the city said in an announcement.

Leading the effort are Cheila Huettner, chief of tourism and promotion in Lancaster’s Department of Neighborhood Engagement, and Jennifer Eddy, president of the consulting firm Eddy Alexander. Funding is provided through two grants: $100,000 from the Department of Community & Economic Development and $150,000 from the High Foundation.

The city sent out this postcard last week. (Source: City of Lancaster)

Last week, the city sent out postcards to all Lancaster addresses advertising the questionnaire and inviting recipients to visit to complete it. The deadline is March 5.

“We want every voice at the table,” Eddy told City Council last week.

The goal is not to dictate a plan in top-down fashion, she said, but to find out how local residents perceive the area and what they value, then develop recommendations based on those priorities.

About the survey

The questionnaire is offered in English, Spanish, Swahili and Arabic and can be accessed via laptop, tablet or smart phone. Additional guidance and assistance are available, if needed, at the Lancaster City Welcome Center at Penn Square and at the Lancaster Public Library, 151 N. Queen St.

It takes about 30 minutes to complete and is highly detailed, with a mix of multiple-choice and open-ended questions about existing attractions and ideas for the future.

Respondents are asked about their demographics and location and whether they would like to participate in focus groups or additional surveys. A separate survey will be going out to businesses, the city said.

Lancaster’s Gallery Row. (Source: Discover Lancaster)

Welcoming city

Development of a tourism master plan is one of the near-term “action items” in “Our Future Lancaster,” the city’s recently adopted comprehensive plan. The Welcome Initiative will build on the comp plan’s recommendations by delving into specifics and recommending “actionable steps,” Department of Neighborhood Engagement Director Milzy Carrasco said.

Discover Lancaster, the county’s tourism promotion agency, and the Lancaster City Alliance, a nonprofit focused on economic development and quality of life, are both involved.

“A strong city tourism product is a central part of a strong countywide sector,” said Ed Harris, Discover Lancaster’s president and CEO. Attractions in the city and county complement each other, he said, enticing visitors to the county into the city and vice versa.

The Fulton Theatre. (Source: Discover Lancaster)

Marshall Snively, the alliance’s president, called the initiative “a great opportunity to determine how to best showcase and more easily access what our city has to offer to our residents, workers, and visitors.”

Promoting tourism aligns and builds on Lancaster’s status as a Certified Welcoming city, Eddy said. Visitors’ dollars recirculate in the local economy and support attractions that local residents enjoy, too.

The city says it will share its initial survey findings at community meetings this spring or summer, which will offer opportunities for additional input. Meanwhile, the team will be gathering more data and conducting stakeholder interviews.

Eddy said her firm’s most recent tourism master plan was completed on behalf of Danville, Virginia, a community of about 42,600 on Virginia’s southern border. The 118-page document was developed through a process similar to the one envisioned here, and incorporates input from more than 2,000 individuals.