Pittsburgh Gears Up for Summer Tourism Surge

Hotel occupancy nears 2019 levels as season’s major festivals approach

By Evan Dougherty

Published June 27, 2022

Read Time: 3 mins


In the coming weeks, waves of out-of-town visitors are expected to take over Pittsburgh.

The regional tourism market is anticipating a big summer, continuing a positive trajectory as the industry continues its rapid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We remain quite optimistic for travel and tourism in Pittsburgh as pent-up leisure demand remains high,” said Susan Klein, Chief Marketing Officer of VisitPITTSBURGH.

According to a recent Longwoods International Travel Sentiment Study, pent-up demand for travel remains high, with 89 percent of Americans surveyed making plans to travel in the next six months. Of those, 51 percent said they would travel in the next 60-90 days.

This positive sentiment is tempered, though, by the recent spike in gas prices, which are starting to disrupt travel plans. As of June 14, two out of three American travelers in the Longwoods survey said that high gas prices will “impact” or “greatly impact” their decision to travel.

Similarly, bookings for air travel are at their highest levels since pre-pandemic. This has been challenged, however, by widespread delays and cancellations stemming from weather, staffing shortages and other factors. Flight tracking site FlightAware.com reported more than 850 flights were canceled Sunday alone.

About 40 percent of the travelers surveyed said they were considering trips closer to home.

Pittsburgh stands to benefit from this adjustment. Based on zip-code.com data from February 2022, Pittsburgh is within a 12-hour drive of about 57 percent of the U.S. population, including major population centers like New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Held July 15-24, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix will celebrate its 40th annual street race this year. (Photo by Matthew Little)

“Despite the negative impact rising gas prices are having on American travelers’ decisions to travel, Pittsburgh continues to be an affordable, convenient destination for many, especially those who opt to take trips closer to home,” said Klein. “From our Only in Pittsburgh experiences and attractions to our diverse and entertaining summer events and festivals—many of which are free—to our convenient location to more than half of the U.S. population, our region continues to be ranked as a must-see destination this season.”

According to industry data, hotel capacity in Pittsburgh is expected to reach near pre-pandemic levels. Based on Tourism Economics’ forecasted occupancy rate between June and August 2022, VisitPITTSBURGH anticipates 92 percent occupancy compared to 2019 levels.

Much of Pittsburgh’s tourism surge is expected to be fueled by numerous festivals and events taking place in the area, with some returning for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Pittsburgh will welcome back one of its largest events with Anthrocon, the nation’s largest anthropomorphic festival, at David L. Lawrence Convention Center June 30-July 3 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The Pittsburgh Black Music Festival will take place July 14-17 at Point State Park in downtown. Featured performers will include R&B, soul, jazz, blues, funk and gospel artists. This year’s lineup is an homage to Pittsburgh’s own Phyllis Hyman.

The city’s popular pickle-focused festival, Picklesburgh, will return July 15-17. Held downtown, Picklesburgh features a wide array of pickle products, live music performances and activities for attendees. The event has been twice voted as the No. 1 Specialty Food Festival in the U.S., attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Other events scheduled this summer include the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix July 15-24, the nation’s largest and sole vintage street race, which will celebrate its 40th annual race this year. Pittsburgh will also host Barrel & Flow Fest on Aug. 13, the first Black brew fest in the U.S., at the Stacks at 3 Crossings.

A full schedule of Pittsburgh’s summer events can be found at VisitPITTSBURGH.com.

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