Two-hundred current and prospective members of Jewish Federation Real Estate (JFRE) were among the very first organizations to meet at the Hotel Monaco in historic Old City Philadelphia — an apropos setting for its October breakfast program on the current and future economic impact of Philadelphia’s burgeoning hospitality industry.
Hotel General Manager Nick Gregory was one of the three panelists to participate in an interactive program moderated by JFRE Executive Committee member Jon Cummins, co-owner and chief operating officer of Amerimar Enterprises. Gregory, who also serves as director of operations for the San Francisco-based Kimpton chain of luxury boutique hotels and restaurants that operates both the Hotel Monaco and Palomar properties in Philadelphia, told the group that “Philadelphia’s strategic location, between New York and Washington, D.C., makes it an ideal location for tourism.”
He emphasized that Philadelphia’s rich history, culture and availability of world-class restaurants makes the locale “particularly attractive to international tourists who tend to spend more money during their visits.”
Jay Shah, chief executive officer of Hersha Hospitality Trust, concurred with Gregory, noting that international tourists average $6,000 during their stay. Shah, whose Trust owns interests in 64 hotels located in major metropolitan and urban centers across America’s Northeast Corridor, has observed a 50 percent increase in international tourists making Philadelphia their destination. “Many of these international visitors come to Philadelphia for conventions, which received a 13 percent boost in attendance thanks to the new convention center,” he explained.
Shah credited the “wonderful work” of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) with creating a favorable climate for these visits.
Ethan Ross, GPTMC’s vice president of research and planning, described the hospitality industry in Philadelphia as “burgeoning.” Tourism has replaced manufacturing as the region’s chief source of revenue, accounting for more than 85,000 jobs and an estimated $8.7 billion in economic impact. Ross reported that more than 700,000 international tourists currently visit Philadelphia annually and termed the market for future growth as “limitless.”
According to Ross, “perception truly is reality.” He explained that the key to expanding Philadelphia’s already lucrative market share is to “buy into the perception of Philadelphia as a true world-class city.” He indicated that the relocation of the Barnes Museum to Center City and the rave reviews of Philadelphia’s upscale restaurants in magazines like Travel and Leisure and Bon Appetit make “eloquent arguments” for this change in status.
JFRE Chairman Bradley Krouse told the crowd that JFRE is much more than an organization that hosts networking and educational events. “We are a force that engages its 250 members in finding real estate solutions to some of our community’s most significant problems and concerns.” He invited the group to visit www.jfre.net  for more information about future events.