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"With Love, Philadelphia XOXO" is Part of a $2.5 million Drive
this Summer as New Tourism Push

By Suzette Parmley, The Philadelphia InquirerMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 13, 2009--Philadelphia wants tourists, and the city is showing it with a new campaign: "With Love, Philadelphia XOXO."

Red Tettemer, the advertising agency hired by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. to come up with this year's campaign theme, is the same one that produced "Philly's More Fun When You Sleep Over." That campaign was developed after the 9/11 tragedy slowed airline travel and tourism.

The tourism industry is facing another crisis, said Meryl Levitz, the tourism group's president and chief executive officer, as the campaign was presented yesterday.

The economic crisis has cut into travelers' discretionary spending and leisure time, and put the tourism industry in a bind.

"It's extra-critical at this point to do this," Levitz said as she unveiled the $1.4 million "With Love" campaign at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (the "XOXO" is Internet shorthand for "hugs and kisses").

"We started thinking about this last summer," she said. "We didn't know what was coming. We had to come up with what would deliver a message to a public that wanted to travel but was afraid to."

Tourism is big business here. Last year, the industry employed 87,384 people and generated $9.32 billion in economic impact, $2.82 billion in wages, and $1.35 billion in taxes for the five-county region, according to the tourism agency.

Levitz said the 18-month marketing campaign builds on previous efforts using the "love" theme, including the 1997 "Philadelphia. The Place That Loves You Back" and the City of Brotherly Love moniker.

It will begin on Memorial Day, with 54 ads blanketing the region on TV, radio and online, banners, transit shelters, and postcards in hotel rooms. The campaign concentrates on the Philadelphia area.

The ads include a 60-second radio spot by Mayor Nutter touting the city's assets, including the national-champion Phillies and arts institutions that are among the world's finest. His radio spot will start Monday; he'll also be shown in TV ads.

Levitz said the tourism group will spend $2.5 million over the summer to get the message out, including the $1.4 million campaign cost.

The campaign is being financed by the 1.2 percent increase in the hotel tax on Philadelphia hotel rooms that was approved and signed into law by Nutter last fall. The tax increase is to be shared among the tourism group, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority.

"With the hotel and airline industries struggling nationally, everyone in the leisure-travel business is having to work harder," said Joe Terzi, president and chief executive of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. A $9 million "Happiness Happens" campaign, hailing San Diego's sunny climate and beaches, was launched last month.

"Like everyone else, we are trying to capture a greater share of a smaller audience," Terzi said. "Frankly, the customer is more in control right now because of everything we are dealing with. There are fabulous opportunities around the globe for the customer."

That includes on the American side of the U.S.-Canada border.

The Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. rolled out its eight-week, $450,000 summer campaign last month that targets families and empty-nesters from Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

"Those happen to be extremely good markets within a driving radius of Niagara Falls," said Kate Scaglione, director of marketing and communications for the Niagara tourism group. It launched an online booking agent on Thursday -- niagara-usa.com -- to allow people to book their trips directly.

"It's much more competitive than ever," she said. "People are researching their options and watching what they are spending much more carefully."

With that in mind, Philadelphia is marketing its affordability and array of free historic attractions, Levitz said.

"Philadelphia is a great choice for those not wanting a long haul or having to pack a lot of bags," she said. "They can still have fun here without going over the top."

Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or sparmley@phillynews.com.

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To see more of The Philadelphia Inquirer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.philly.com/inquirer.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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