Philly has mat out for international visitors

Philadelphia was justifiably proud when it became the first U.S. city inducted into the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) Nov. 6, 2015.

And chances are, the distinction will lead to some marvelous international relationships … and attract more foreign travelers to William Penn’s city.

But there’s great confusion about what this honor means. So let’s try to clarify the murky picture a bit.

Being a World Heritage City really allows Philadelphia entry into an exclusive club of some 300 important cities with a combined population of 164 million.

A World Heritage City must already have a site on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Philadelphia’s site, Independence Hall, has been on that list since 1979.

But being in the Quebec-based OWHC does not include preservation protection for city sites. And OWHC is not connected to UNESCO.


World-wide exposure

The honor is really about pride, says Alan Greenberger, Philadelphia’s deputy major for economic development for eight years. Greenberger, current head, architecture, design and urbanism at Drexel University, thinks Philadelphia will enjoy a number of short and long-term benefits.


Short-term advantages:

  • World Heritage Cities are very important to non-U.S. travelers, and this new status should bring more world-wide visitors to Philly. “This puts us on the international radar,” Greenberger says.
  • World Heritage tourists are also said to be cultured visitors who spend more than the average traveler, both a big plus for Philly.


Long-term advantages

  • The World Heritage City designation should help Philly develop ties with key leaders around the world. “You reach out to those with something in common, and build on people relationships,” Greenberger says. “We’ve done this for decades with our sister cities.” Typically, these activities include: economic development, cultural relationships, tourist exchange programs and more.

Global Philadelphia, an organization of top Philly leaders and high-profile companies, actively promotes the area’s global profile as a World Heritage City.

In that role, Global Philadelphia has developed a World Heritage City logo for Philadelphia, a video, an educational program for students and an aggressive strategic plan.

Until June 2018, visitors to Terminal A-East at Philadelphia International Airport will see an exhibit about Philly’s designation as the country’s first World Heritage City. A large montage features the city’s 67 National Historic Landmarks, plus Independence Hall.

Philadelphia is used to receiving top awards and hosting high-profile events. In recent years, these included: a Papal visit in 2015, the 2016 National Convention and the most attended NFL Draft ever in 2017. The city was also listed as top places to visit by Travel + Leisure, USA Today, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s and the New York Times, among others.

Last year, some 42 million visitors traveled to the city, the 7th year in a row of record-breaking attendance. Philadelphia also ranks 15th in the U.S. for international visitors, and hopes to see that number increase.

It should. American Airlines has added 2018 Philly flights to Budapest, Prague and Zurich. Aer Lingus added Dublin as a destination.

So make your reservations now.  Company’s coming to this World Heritage City. And Philly loves to entertain.