After 14 years as president of the tourism promotion agency for Lehigh and Northampton counties, Michael Stershic is stepping down from Discover Lehigh Valley and will retire at the end of 2018.
Stershic said he is proud of his work with the agency, particularly in its work to brand the region as the Lehigh Valley and set it up as its own tourism region.
He noted that before 2010, the Lehigh Valley had been part of the Greater Philadelphia and its countryside tourism region.
“They didn’t want to promote us, and we didn’t really want to be a part of them,” he said.
He said having the Lehigh Valley recognized as its own tourism region has significantly helped its promotion efforts.
Stershic said that tourism, while only about 7 percent of the Lehigh Valley’s economy, is still an important part, bringing in around $2.1 billion each year.
And while venues such as Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom and the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem may be the two big names, there are many small venues that also generate revenue and jobs for the region.
The search for Stershic’s replacement already is underway. The executive committee of Discover Lehigh Valley’s board of directors has appointed a search committee led by Kassie Hilgert, president and CEO of ArtsQuest in Bethlehem, and Kurt Landes, Lehigh Valley IronPigs president and general manager.
“Mike has been a champion and incredible advocate for the entire Lehigh Valley during an exceptional time of growth as it relates to new tourism attractions and hotels,” said Hilgert, chairwoman of Discover Lehigh Valley’s board of directors.
“His leadership has helped to drive tremendous growth and visibility for the region and Discover Lehigh Valley, and we are grateful to him for his passion, dedication and support. We wish him the best and congratulate him on his well-deserved retirement.”
The board expects to name a new president in early fall to allow for some overlap with Stershic’s term.
Stershic has some advice to whoever takes the reins of Discover Lehigh Valley.
“Make sure you keep hammering away at the Lehigh Valley brand and make sure it’s recognized and continues to be a recognized brand,” he said.