Pittsburgh-ese Isn’t the Only Accent Around Here

International travel up in Pittsburgh; strong numbers from the UK, Germany and China

By Kristin Mageras

Published March 25, 2019

Read Time: 2 mins


The world is discovering Pittsburgh.

International travel to Pittsburgh grew by 2.5 percent in 2018, according to preliminary figures from VisitPITTSBURGH. And the forecast is rosy: a 23 percent growth in overseas visitors is projected over the next five years.

“We know Pittsburgh’s great,” said Christina Cassotis, chief executive officer of the Allegheny County Airport Authority. “But whether you’re talking about our transition from steel to a diversification of industries or our growing reputation for arts, culture and foodie scene, not everyone around the world’s gotten the memo.”

More international travelers are learning about Pittsburgh every day, thanks to the efforts of the Pittsburgh International Travel Cooperative, a consortium of organizations in and around Southwestern Pennsylvania dedicated to increased and improved air service, inward investment, and travel and tourism.

Founded in 2015 by VisitPITTSBURGH and Pittsburgh International Airport, the consortium has expanded to include formal and in-kind partnerships with Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, Visit Washington County PA, Visit Monroeville, Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, Idea Foundry, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

The group’s No. 1 goal is to promote Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh International Airport as its No. 1 gateway. Markets targeted recently include the United Kingdom, Germany and China, said Craig Davis, chief executive officer at VisitPITTSBURGH.

The consortium has engaged marketing firms in both the UK and Germany to help tell the Pittsburgh story, primarily to leisure travelers. It also formed a unique partnership with one of the largest tour operators in China to help inform its clients about the Pittsburgh market.

Growth in these markets between 2017 and 2018 is led by the UK at 6 percent, China at 5 percent and Germany at 3 percent.

“Our China play is a very unique charter-to-scheduled service multi-year strategy, where we saw two flights last year and are hoping on more in consecutive years,” said Bryan Dietz, vice president of Air Service Development at PIT.

He credited the region’s high concentration of universities and its arts and culture venues and museums for helping to boost interest among Chinese travelers, and the marketing efforts in the UK and Germany for increasing tourism across Europe.

“It helps to have nonstop flights to bolster those numbers, which is what we’ve seen in the past three years,” Dietz said.

PIT added transatlantic service with Condor to Frankfurt, Germany, and WOW air to Reykjavik, Iceland, in 2016. While the latter has suspended flights to Pittsburgh, Condor will resume seasonal service on May 21. PIT will add to its international lineup on April 2 when British Airways begins its inaugural flight from the Steel City to London-Heathrow nonstop four days a week throughout the year.

“People who have seen New York City or Boston or San Francisco or Orlando are clamoring for an authentic American experience, true Americana,” Davis said. “We can give them that here in Pittsburgh.”


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