LAKE PLACID, NY – The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism has released the results of its 2021 Leisure Travel Study, which analyzes non-business travel to Lake Placid, Essex and Hamilton counties, along with the adjacent communities of Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake.
The leisure travel study is conducted each year to identify travel trends, gauge the impact of marketing initiatives and implement data-driven decisions.
“We base our marketing decisions on available data, insights and trends so that we can optimize results,” said James McKenna, CEO, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. “This survey continues to provide information that allows us to better understand leisure travelers in our region.”
Three key findings include: for the first time, the percentage of travelers visiting the region during the fall months (30%) surpassed the percentage of summer visitors (26%); approximately 75% of visitors to the region traveled from within New York state; and a near record-level 211,930 travelers contacted the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism to request travel-related information ahead of their trip, in addition to those who simply visit the organization’s websites, printed material, and social channels.
Results of the 2021 study were more closely aligned with results before the impact of COVID-19 on travel in 2020. That was a year which saw unprecedented visitation trends including more travelers from within New York state and significantly less out-of-state visitation (5%) due to travel restrictions. 2020 also saw a much longer length of stay and larger party size, both suggesting that people wanted to vacate more populous regions of the state for the relative solitude of the Adirondacks.
Survey results are typically compared to the previous year, along with a 5-year average, however this year, 2021 results are being compared to those of 2019.
“We need to evaluate 2020 a bit differently, as there was a marked increase in party size and length of stay, both directly contributing to a significant spending increase,” said Jane Hooper, communications manager, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. “While we can look at the 2020 survey as a point of reference, we shouldn’t directly compare the results of the 2021 survey with the 2020 survey, due to the unusual circumstances of the pandemic.”
Other significant findings include that the average length of stay in the region is roughly 3.4 days, and the vast majority of people choose to stay in a hotel or other rental accommodation. Most people visit from July through October and outdoor activities are a significant reason for visiting. Of those who visited, 79% indicated that hiking was an activity of interest; of those 69% were interested in day hikes, 33% were interested in leisure or hard surface hiking, along with 28% interested in family hiking and 12% interested in hiking the high peaks. Paddling was another important activity for approximately 34% of travelers. Total expenditure per trip in 2021 was approximately $1,390 with lodging, meals and shopping making up the majority of that amount; an increase of 17% over 2019.
The study uncovered some slight differences in visitor behavior between those who visited Essex County and others who visited Hamilton County. The majority of visitors to Essex County (43%) stayed at a hotel / motel / resort as opposed to camping (11%), long-term rental (16%) or staying with friends (15%). Those who traveled to Hamilton County stayed at campsites (26%), at a hotel / motel (23%) or at their second home (18%) during their stay.
“Outdoor recreation remains popular in the Adirondacks,” commented Hooper. “Survey results continue to support that. This confirms that our marketing efforts should continue to focus on outdoor recreation, while controlling the impacts of that recreation by promoting the importance of responsible recreation through the Love Your ADK campaign.”
The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism contracted with PlaceMaking, an independent third-party research firm, to conduct the study. The results include a regional return on marketing investment analysis, plus traveler data for both Essex and Hamilton counties.
Those surveyed do not represent all travelers to the region, only those that saw Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism marketing materials, followed the organization’s Facebook pages, or subscribed to its weekly email. The entire report, which includes data on day trip travelers, short-term rentals, and additional information, is available for download at RoostADK.com.
About the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism
The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism is the destination marketing and management organization for Essex and Hamilton Counties, which includes the Lake Placid region, along with the communities of Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake, all located within the Adirondacks in New York state. The organization is also a community member of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.
Photo at top: Ampersand Mountain, a popular hike in the Saranac Lake area, offers beautiful views of the region. Photo provided by Jane Hooper of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.