British Tour Operator Familiarization Tour Highlights Butler County’s Diverse Attractions
Return of British Airways Flight Prompts Promotional Push
While a group of business leaders from western Pennsylvania headed to England to speak with officials about the benefits of the recently reinstated British Airways from London to Pittsburgh, a small contingency of tour operators from England were in Butler County learning about what it has to offer tourists.
Apparently, Butler County has what the English want when touring the States.
“You could see their excitement once we arrived at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex and then when riding the bus to Zelienople,” said Amy Pack, Senior Director of Tourism Development, for the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau (BCTCB). “They spoke so favorably about the diversity of offerings the county had to offer. The Lemieux Center was a great start but the leaves changing color caught their attention and the quaintness of towns like Zelienople and Harmony really drew them in.”
The five tour operators were part of a Familiarization – or Fam – Tour that was spearheaded by VisitPittsburgh and Pittsburgh International Airport in an effort to promote the region in England. BCTCB worked with VisitPittsburgh to coordinate this particular Fam Tour the first week of October in Butler County as part of the operators’ 5-day, 4-night stay in the region.
The goal is to persuade these tour operators to place Pittsburgh and Butler County on itineraries for their customers in England. This Fam Tour was among the first since British Airways’ nonstop flight between Pittsburgh and London resumed in June after a 27-month COVID-19 induced hiatus.
Being part of tours such as these, or similar media Fam Tours, is of utmost importance according to Jack Cohen, President, BCTCB.
“With the British Airways flight returning we know that tourists will be coming to the region,” Cohen said. “We need to show tour operators why their customers should make Butler County part of their visit.”
Although some may scoff at the idea that European tourists would have a spot like Butler County on their wish list, tour operators have said in the past that what their repeat customers want – especially those that have already visited New York, Orlandos, etc. – is a more genuine, authentic American experience.
“Butler County has quaint towns with significant history like Harmony and Saxonburg that define Americana,” Cohen said. “Traditionally, Europeans have more vacation time than we do here in the states. We know that tourists aren’t going to spend a week, but spending two or three days of a two-week holiday is a reality.”
Tour operators were shown a variety of Butler County attractions that would appeal to those types of itineraries. The day started with a quick stop at the Lemieux Complex, followed by candy shopping at Baldingers, and then on to a brief walking tour of Harmony.
After lunch at The Log Cabin Inn, the group headed for a tour of Lake Arthur on Preston’s Pearl at Moraine State Park, before getting a docent-led tour of the Maridon Museum in Butler. Afterward there was a visit to Freedom Farms, a walking tour of Saxonburg, and to close the day, visits to the spaceship and the Breakneck Tavern in Mars.
In addition to the attractions, the tour included stops at a hotel, a BnB-type property, and a campground drive-by.
“At the end of the day, they may have been tired, but they enjoyed some great food and saw that Butler County has so much to offer their customers,” Pack said. “We’ll continue to work with them to help answer the questions and build itineraries. I expect that we’ll see their customers in the future.”