Candidates discuss tourism, hospitality, and branding Philly
The mayoral candidates (sans T. Milton Street) attended a tourism forum Friday morning at the Independence Visitor’s Center. Over the course of the event, they discussed the leisure and hospitality industry, the 65,000 jobs it provides, and the $5.8 billion it generates for the economy each year — and more importantly, how we can make more attractive and accessible to more people around the globe.
The forum was hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, Independence Visitor Center Corporation, Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Visit Philadelphia.
Here are some of the highlight-worthy responses:
How can you link the unemployed to jobs in the hospitality industry?
Melissa Murray Bailey: If Philadelphia wants to be an international destination, our airport needs to service more international destinations. Promoting that will lead to more jobs. Then we need to look at connecting high school students to careers in the service and hospitality industry. We have to make sure we’re marketing those jobs effectively to those who need them most.
The city wants to help the homeless. But when tourists arrive, they don’t necessarily like to encounter panhandlers and the like. How do you find a balance between the two?
Jim Kenney: There are many levels of homelessness. But you cannot sweep people off the street. The government can’t just crack down on the homeless. They have a right to be in the space as much as everyone else does. We have to work with the advocacy community and social workers to figure out what is keeping people chronically homeless. The other issue is that we have a disgraceful situation with homeless veterans. You can’t dictate this problem away. We need to deal with it in a sensitive and effective way, and if we continue to make it a collaborate effort, it will be successful.
Would you be a friend to car sharing apps like Uber and Lyft to engage tourists?
Judge Nelson Diaz: Whether it’s Uber, Lyft, taxis, or public transportation, we need to ensure that everything is clean, and that drivers are knowledgeable of the city and capable of showing visitors good hospitality. Drivers also need to be educated on what’s available and where. Diverse payment modes are important on every transit mode.
Some cities have “hospitality zones.” Some people suggest we should have one at Penn’s Landing. Does the city actually needs to find a place that can be a “hospitality zone,” and what do you think it should be used for?
Lynne Abraham: We can make better use of the waterfront in our city. Generally speaking, most people who come to Philadelphia tend to stay between the Delaware and the Art Museum, and north-south from Vine Street to Pine Street or below. We don't a need a tourism center per se, but we could benefit from more “information pods” that could assist tourists. We could also do something to increase signage.
The mayor of Philadelphia is also an ambassador. What types of trips would you take on the taxpayer’s dime to build more business interests?
Doug Oliver: “That question’s not fraught with danger at all,” Oliver joked. He added that the mayor needs to be a kind of cheerleader for the city. Every other city is pushing its product, and Philadelphia is part of the competition. Oliver wants to spread that message that Philadelphia is progressive, exciting, youthful. “When we said ‘get your history straight, and your nightlife gay’ we sent a message that has paid off for us," he said.
How can technology and social networking be used to enhance tourism in the city?
Sen. Anthony Williams: We need to look into language software across city government and in our tourism centers for those who come to the city and don’t speak a familiar language. We also integrate the city’s young tech innovators into the conversation.
Notes from the forum trail:
Williams accused his opponents of pandering by saying they all rode bikes at the mobility forum, and now they’re saying they ride Uber at the tourism forum. “You can’t do both unless you put the bike on top of the car,” he said. Diaz later pointed out that Williams had a representative attend the mobility forum in his stead.
Diaz flashed all of his transportation cards at one point. He also created an uproar by saying that Pat’s had the best cheesesteak. He then quickly pointed out that “I’m not going to say the other one [Gino’s], because they don’t take people who speak Spanish.”
Jim Kenney made a unique insight on the topic of rebranding Philadelphia: the Cezanne exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art generated more revenue for the city than all of the Philadelphia sports events combined that year.
In a response to an audience member’s question about more residential parking in South Philly, Lynne Abraham didn’t pander; she encouraged skating, biking, and taking public transit as an alternative.