An estimated 8,000 journalists from around the globe are expected to arrive in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families Congress and Papal Visit to Philadelphia this week.
The national and international gathering of media will provide a unique opportunity for regional ambassadors to showcase the city. VisitPhilly.com and the Philadelphia Conventions and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), along with the Independence Visitor Center and the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority are jointly promoting Philadelphia to the visiting media. These agencies are assisting the thousands of visiting members of the press get the lay-of-the-land, context for their papal coverage, ideas for destination stories, and even suggestions on where to go in their (limited) free time.
“A chance to have these people here is a golden opportunity,” said Cara Schneider, director of media relations for Visit Philadelphia. “The goal of the tour is to not only show [media] around, but to also give them a sense of the context of the places the Pope is going to be speaking; why is it significant that he is talking about religious liberty at Independence Hall because this nation was founded on that idea in this spot on the idea of religion liberty by immigrants, the theme of his talks. We want them to understand the symbolism of this happening in Philadelphia.”
In the early announcements of the Pope’s visit, Philadelphia was initially the only stop scheduled as it is the site of the every-three-years World Meeting of Families. “When this meeting was first announced he wasn’t doing New York, D.C. or Cuba,” said Schneider. “There is no question that it would have been a different experience with media if he were only here, but he’s got a bigger mission and a bigger message.”
From the tourism promotion perspective, the Papal visit has sent “web usage is through the roof,” said Schneider of the VisitPhilly.com and uwishunu.com sites. “It is a really powerful group of investors that choose to follow us. The thing about Philly is that they are not coming for one reason because the thing us is that we don’t have that one attraction that everyone is coming to see, but on the other hand we have a millions things that a million people are coming to see.”
This once-in-a-generation event visit by the Holy Father has placed all eyes on Philly. While manning the Philadelphia booth at the media filing center in the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Schneider said the benefits of hosting this incredible event was evident in some of the media reports she’s received. “I got a CNN news alert that reads, ‘Pope Francis lands in the United States, visits Congress and the United Nations in New York and Washington and spends the weekend in Philadelphia. I forwarded it to the staff…that’s the ultimate leisure message: work in New York and D.C. and then come and have fun in Philly. I mean,” laughed Schneider, “even the Pope’s doing it.”
Four area billboards featuring larger-than-life images of Pope Francis welcome the pope and pilgrims to Philadelphia for World Meeting of Families (WMOF) and the papal visit. The creative ads are part of Visit Philadelphia’s With Love, Philadelphia XOXO® campaign.
“This is an uplifting time for Philadelphia, and we want to celebrate that in our campaign,” said Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia. “People will be telling their children about Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia for years to come; this is an historic event, and it deserves to be showcased.”
The weeklong WMOF event has the Delaware Valley in the limelight, and that’s good news to Levitz. “I hope we start focusing on what this visit to Philadelphia and to America means for our position in the world, and of course, what we do with it afterwards—and the fact that we welcome next month at this time another spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama,” said Levitz. “I think it has been very nice how all of the hospitality agencies have worked together to make it happen. I hope that a massive debrief happens afterwards so we can from our different perspectives, look at what this meant, what the opportunities are and learn from it because who knows what we’ll be ready to do next.”
Levitz said the agency’s role in helping the media corps is part of its mission to build the region’s image while assisting its tourism industry. “I think,” Levitz continued, “it is building the relationship and the awareness that Philadelphia is worth another look for a variety of really good reason that are not going to go away.”
After visiting Washington and New York City, Pope Francis concludes his tour of the U.S. with events in Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday.