Susquehanna County looks to sever ties with visitors bureau

The Susquehanna County Courthouse was built in the Greek Revival style – one of the architectural styles prominent in the Montrose Historic District which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

The Susquehanna County Commissioners are looking to create a county-based tourism and promotions board and leave a longstanding affiliation with the regional Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau (EMVB). In addition to Susquehanna County, EMVB handles tourism and promotion for Wyoming and Sullivan counties.  

A letter – signed by two of the three commissioners – and a proposed resolution of support for a county-based tourism committee was mailed to municipalities in December.

The letter stated that the commissioners had “decided to take a new direction and for a new, forward-thinking Susquehanna County- based promotion agency.” Commissioners Alan Hall and Judy Herschel signed the letter. Commissioner Elizabeth Arnold currently sits on the EMVB Board of Directors.

“The biggest thing is it’s all about promoting Susquehanna County,” Hall said. “Making sure we promote our businesses and non-profits in the county.” He also noted that room tax grants would continue.

The move prompted a response to township and borough officials by letter from EMVB Executive Director Jean Ruhf refuting claims made in the commissioners’ letter and asking municipal leaders to not adopt the Susquehanna Tourism Resolution and allow EMVB to continue representing the county as part of the Endless Mountains Region.

Ruhf noted publications promoting the three-county region, as well as additional efforts – including working with a consultant that brought a travel writer to the area “which is how Montrose was named the #1 Hallmark Christmas town in PA,” reads the letter.

Penny Eldred, innkeeper at the Rosemont Inn Bed & Breakfast described services provided by EMVB as “invaluable.”

“They sent travel writers who promoted the Rosemont in giant way and Christmas in Montrose,” Eldred said. She has also attended free EMVB seminars and lectures on Google analytics and other topics.

“(EMVB) has such a wider network, rather than one person in a county office. They go to conferences statewide and in other states and promote our events on the website for free.”

“They helped put us on the map and take us up another level,” Eldred said.

In an interview on Monday, Hall further explained the county’s plan. “The concept is to form a community committee comprised of people from around the county to serve on a tourism board with an executive director in the county to oversee it and keep things moving in the direction they need to be moving in.”

But, he said, the commissioners can’t move forward with the plan until it is voted on in a public meeting – which he expects to happen at the first meeting of the commissioners in February. He noted that more than enough municipalities have already passed the resolution to enable the county to move forward with the creation of a Susquehanna County Tourism and Promotions Board.

In a Jan. 5 letter responding to information in the EMVB letter, Commissioners Hall and Herschel followed up with: “It is true that EMVB has been representing Susquehanna County for more than 40 years. Over those years, so much has changed in the world. Most recently, the blast of internet and social media has changed the way people get information… our vision is to create a tourism agency that is forward-thinking, based in and for the sole benefit of Susquehanna County, with an internet and social media presence.”

Hall said he envisions creating an online interactive map that includes all the places of interest, retail shops, businesses, and restaurants.

The county’s vision is to draw travelers off the highway. “We need them to get off the interstate and spend the day here, tour around, go to shops, stores and events.”

He continued, “It’s not just about people in hotels – it’s getting them to spend time and revenue at all these places – the ski resort, retail stores, flower shops, antique stores, diners – and get them to spend money to generate revenue in this county.”

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