Tourism Stays Strong, Boosts Economy in Clearfield County

CLEARFIELD – Although tourism has been down statewide, it has given Clearfield County an economic boost.

In fact, the county is among the few in Pennsylvania that have experienced increased tourism, according to Sandy Fink-Barrett, director of the recreation and tourism authority.

She said that the county occupancy rate is up 12 percent in the running 12-month Smith Travel Research report. She said that Washington County, which recently opened a new casino, has had the state’s top occupancy rate in the past months.

She said the report also indicated that hotel revenue percentages are up more than 17 percent over the running 12 months. She said that their demand has gone up by more than 5 percent.

“Looking at those numbers, it doesn’t include any campgrounds and bed and breakfasts,” Fink-Barrett said of the hotel revenue percentages.

Fink-Barrett said that the county has recently been a destination for visitors from York, the Washington, D.C. area and the Carolinas. She said that they’ve noticed increased visitor traffic from the New York and New Jersey area. She believes they have found Clearfield via the VisitPA Web site.

In marketing the county, Fink-Barrett said that they’ve pushed its value. She said that visitors are able to stay and have an experience comparable to a high-end resort without the price tags. She said in the end, they even have money, when they return home.

“We’ve noticed that people have not stopped traveling. They haven’t stopped camping,” she said. “Because of uncertainty with the economy, they figure ‘let’s go while we can.’”

She also said that the new Clearfield County Web site has made navigating the region easier for its visitors. She said that they’re able to pull up a map, print and go.

Fink-Barrett said that visitors don’t have specific travel destinations but are drawn to the area for its backwoods, backroads and backwaters.

“Yeah, they come and do a Denny’s burger and Bilger’s Rocks. But they’re coming for the experience and a great road trip. They’re going out in the community, staying and doing things,” she said.

“This is their vacation. This is where they come. They like it here because (the memory) stays with them. It’s the things they don’t forget that’s bringing them back.”

She said the region typically sees more visitors during the mid-summer to early fall from year-to-year. She said that it’s a popular time, as visitors enjoy the leaves turning colors and seeing the elk.

With county tourism down in the wintertime, Holly Komonczi, marketing director, said in a June interview that she has hopes to produce a “winter blues” campaign to attract visitors during the colder months.

She said that the winter season is the slowest in the tourism business. She said that she’s working with several regional companies on packages and travel discounts.

“We need to increase our overnight stays during the cold months, and we have a great deal of winter activities to do,” she said.

Komonczi said that last year she developed a winter brochure but would like to develop discounted packages, so that travelers can enjoy doing so during those “cold, dreary months.”

Fink-Barrett, however, said Fun Central will be a destination for visitors, when their plans become altered due to the weather conditions.

“Washington County has a casino, but we have the next best thing,” she said. In fact, she said that Fun Central will bring opportunities for families.

She said that often families visit the area during a vacation and need a break from the kids. She said that its daycare services will allow parents to have a day at the beach or a nice dinner alone. In contrast, she said it will also be a home for family fun.

“It’s easy. It’s fun. What a place to go,” she said, noting that the drop-in daycare services will be available and convenient for visitors. She said that visitors have differing travel purposes and needs, and they’re not necessarily always tourism-related.

Fink-Barrett and Komonczi said that they are both proud of the county’s increased tourism.

“Our community has finally embraced our assets. Once that barrier was overcome, I noticed a major difference,” Komonczi said.

Fink-Barrett added, “It’s not just us but the product. It takes every bit of attention from our businesses, attractions and our people. It’s our backwoods, backroads and backwaters.”

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