Monday, June 14, 2010

Tourism Officials Optimistic Heading Into Summer

The Adirondack region relies heavily on tourism to support local economies – and if early returns are any indication, there’s good reason to be optimistic as the summer season begins picking up.

Two reports released in recent weeks show more people are packing their bags and heading out for mini-vacations – a good sign for hoteliers and restaurant owners in popular destinations like Lake Placid and Lake George.

The first report came from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Numbers for Memorial Day weekend this year showed a 17 percent increase in attendance over last year – and that’s with 41 parks opening at the last minute due to the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

The second report – a survey conducted by the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association – backs up the state’s numbers. NYSHTA is a not-for-profit trade organization representing some 1,300 businesses in the lodging and attractions industry. The survey found that 70 percent of hotel managers and lodging owners reported better business this year for Memorial Day weekend than in 2009.

Kim Rielly of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) says more people are taking unplanned vacations this year.

“These reports are consistent with our findings,” she said. “We’re looking forward to a good year, because there’s pent-up demand. People haven’t been traveling as much due to the economic downturn.”

Rielly also notes that recent negative press for the airline industry (see: volcanic ash and strikes) has more people looking for drive-to destinations.

“That’s the Adirondacks,” she said.

“Our proximity to millions of people in the New York metro area and the Montreal area works to our advantage,” Rielly added.

Rielly says that in Essex County, occupancy rates are already up over last year.

“And, from what we’re hearing from the area lodging industry, people are making a lot of last-minute travel plans,” she said. “Consumer confidence seems to be up, so we’re optimistic.”

Now for the part that may – no pun intended – dampen some of that optimism:

The weather.

The warm temperatures throughout the Adirondack and North Country regions in April and May flirted with the record books on several occasions. And, of course, most travelers to the area are here for outdoor activities.

“I was on my bicycle in February,” Rielly quipped. “But in all seriousness, we’ve been blessed with some fantastic weather. That’s absolutely going to play into that last-minute decision making and hopefully it will continue into the summer.”

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