Angela Val has deep roots in Philadelphia.
And after being named the new CEO and President of Visit Philadelphia, Val’s special bond with this city has come full circle.
“I wanted this job,” says Val of the interview process that brought her back to Visit Philadelphia from her most recent gigs as CEO of Tempest, a marketing agency, and Executive Director of Ready. Set. Philly!, a collaborative initiative to help relaunch the city’s economy following the pandemic. “I love being in travel and tourism, spent my whole life there, and specifically spent that same lifetime promoting Philadelphia.”
Val saw the newly open CEO and President gig as an opportunity to give back to Visit Philadelphia, as well as this city itself.
“This city has always played a role in my professional and personal life, and this is my way of thanking them at a critical time in our industry and the city’s.”
Val worked with former CEO and President of Visit Philadelphia, the late Jeff Guaracino, as well as his predecessor Meryl Levitz, for 12 years. “Jeff and I were colleagues, friends, and he was my one-time neighbor. I knew that I had really big shoes to fill in taking this job. With that, I see this as me accepting the baton from Jeff because he did not get to finish the jobs that he had started.”
Calling Guaracino a “Philadelphia cheerleader,” Val acknowledged his devised programs directed toward Black and Brown communities and their tourism dollars, as well as his highly-popular LGBTQ marketing, in this city and beyond.
Along with keeping those initiatives strong and developing a seamless and collaborative transition at Visit Philadelphia, Val says she would like to make her mark by furthering the gospel of Philadelphia’s tourism totems, and bringing tourism’s agenda, and its advertising, into even more cities, untapped, across the globe.
“I am a big ‘we’ person. Collaboration is part of my management style, and I want to talk to all of our partners in the community before moving forward,” she said. “This is a heavy lift coming out of Covid, and don’t think that one person or one organization can do it alone. Jeff made sure that the world knew that we are a foodie city and I would like to see a similar attention given to our arts and culture community — live and visual performing arts, great museums, a dynamic theater district.
“I’m an African-American woman, so I have Black and Brown communities in the forefront of what we do,” she continues. “Along with working toward coming out of the pandemic, safety and security is a critical point when it comes to visitation, growth, old residents and new, workers returning to our downtown post-Covid as well as to attracting new businesses.”
Val explains that a safety is a top priority, and wants to work with police to ensure people throughout the city feel safe.
“I want to break the perception that it is not safe to be downtown. We want to work with the city and its police department to make sure people feel as if they have good physical safety, that there are eyes on the street and boots on the ground,” she said.
All of this necessary safety, strength and seriousness aside, the new head of Visit Philadelphia has some very distinct and enjoyable things that she likes to do on a regular basis, that perhaps tourists, local and outside, might dig, too.
“I’m a big walker, and walk to-and-from my home everyday and to all my meetings,” says Val. “That’s how I find new things and where I run into colleagues and friends – I like that serendipitous lifestyle.
“I’m not the best cook of which my husband will attest, so we love to eat out, and one of my favorite neighborhood spots in Point Breeze is American Sardine Bar down the street. Vernick is very dear to my heart. It’s hard to pick, as this city has so many delicious places to dine. I love street festivals too – I’ve missed that during the pandemic, and nothing like a good street fest allows you to taste the flavors of a neighborhood, and see what’s new and open on every block.”