Happy Valley capitalizes on the life-changing magic of travel

11/22/2022

By Cara Aungst

Upcoming events in the upcoming year include The Ironman 70.3 triathlon set for July 2023. Photo: Provided.

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau (HVAB) measured markers of Covid-19 economic recovery a little differently than the rest of the world. While other businesses looked to the CDC or Wall Street, HVAB watched the people they’ve had their eye on all along: visitors who count the days until they can be back in Happy Valley.

“We serve Happy Valley’s biggest enthusiasts — alumni, football fans, vacationers and people who live here in Happy Valley — and give them tools so they can plan their best trip ever,” HVAB’s CEO and President Fritz Smith said. “These past two years were remarkably difficult since visitors weren’t comfortable, or simply not able to travel, and, because of that, local businesses were suddenly dealing with a dramatic loss of visitor spending.”

Happy Valley ranks third in the state for lodging performance growth, with demand 22% higher than 2021, and occupancy at a 28% increase.

Smith says his team jumped into action on both fronts: seeking grants to assist local business owners through the crisis, and giving visitors a taste of Happy Valley from wherever they were sheltering in place, showing them their favorite getaway location through video, blog posts and travel guides until they were ready to get back on the road to Happy Valley.

Happily, he added, those days are coming back. On November 10, The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau held their annual meeting. In a talk with the attendees, Smith shared that visitor and lodging metrics are quickly rebounding. Happy Valley ranks third in the state for lodging performance growth, with demand 22% higher than 2021, and occupancy at a 28% increase.

“A key driver in increased activity in the region is sports tourism,” he said. “And this past year saw exciting announcements, strengthened university and community partnerships and a formalized effort to grow our sports and economic sectors.”

“That’s good news for Happy Valley,” Smith continued, “But more than that, it’s great news for visitors. They get to explore our outdoor destinations, eat field-to-fork meals and make memories they’ll never forget. We can’t wait for them to come back and experience Happy Valley.”

Under the banner of the Happy Valley Sports & Entertainment Alliance, HVAB and Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics commissioned Econsult Solutions Inc. to measure the economic impact of sports events held in Happy Valley.

The findings? Sports events in Happy Valley:

  • Generate an annual economic impact of nearly $417 million — $87 million at home football games
  • Support 4,315 jobs within Centre County
  • Result in compensation of $133 million to employees
  • Have a statewide impact of $467 million
  • Bring 1.7 million people to Centre County annually — 890,000 to Penn State home football games alone

Upcoming major sports bookings will continue to increase those numbers. PIAA boys’ and girls’ spring sports festival and fall golf championships will be held in the region through 2025 and 2026. The Ironman 70.3 triathlon in July 2023 already has 1,724 registrants from five countries and 44 states, and more than 80 athletes from Happy Valley competing as well.

Sports tourism is a key driver in increased activity in the region, making Happy Valley third in the state for lodging performance, and generating an annual economic impact of $417 million per year. Photo: Provided.

As 2023 events start to fill the calendar, Smith said HVAB website traffic is increasing, as visitors make their plans to come back, at last, to Happy Valley. He said, “Website sessions are up 23% from last year, and we have 22% more viewers than last year. All of this is pointing to signs for even more growth over the next year.”

“That’s good news for Happy Valley,” he continued, “But more than that, it’s great news for visitors. They get to explore our outdoor destinations, eat field-to-fork meals and make memories they’ll never forget. We can’t wait for them to come back and experience Happy Valley.”

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