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Better Than Expected

Area tourism seasons exceeded projections

September 18, 2011
By MIKE ZUMMO , The Leader Herald

Even the wet weather couldn't put too much of a damper on the area's summer tourism season, as local tourism officials indicate seasonal businesses exceeded expectations this summer.

According to Terry Swierzowski, tourism director for the Fulton County Regional chamber of Commerce & Industry, most of the information indicating a strong tourism season comes from reports from local businesses.

She said the biggest indicator of how the area is doing comes from the people who visit the county Tourism Information Center, which the chamber runs for the county. Last year, in June, July and August, about 6,300 people went to the visitors' center, located in Vail Mills at the intersection of Routes 29 and 30A. This year, only 5,000 came to the center during those months.

Article Photos

The beach at the Caroga Lake state
campground is shown July 20. Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce &
Industry Tourism Director Terry Swierzowski said the campground was sold out
before the Memorial Day and and Labor Day weekends.

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

However, Swierzowski attributed the decrease to the construction of a roundabout at that intersection, making access to the center difficult.

"There were times I couldn't find a way in," she said.

Crystal Ricciuti, who runs the Montgomery County tourism program, said she was in the process of sending out surveys on the summer tourism season, but was behind because of the flooding that plagued areas of the county due to Tropical Storms Irene and Lee.

Riccuiti said she visited various summer activities, such as a recent Strawberry festival, and said events had a good turnout.

"Despite the flooding, the [Fonda Fair] was open and it went without too much of a hitch, although their numbers were less," she said. "Both [racetracks] had a decent season. It seemed to have a little bit of a boost despite the economy."

Statewide, a poll conducted by the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association revealed 70 percent of surveyed hotel owners reported summer occupancy was better than or the same as last year.

Also, the association's survey revealed that 70 percent of those surveyed indicated occupancy during the Labor Day weekend was as good or better than the same weekend last year.

According to a release from the association, the Labor Day poll backs up a similar poll taken after Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer.

According to the release, more than two thirds of surveyed hotel owners reported selling out at least one night during the weekend, up from about half last year.

"Given the tropical storm and flooding that led up to the Labor Day weekend, we're encouraged to hear that our members hae reported continued, increased occupancy," said Jan Marie Chesterton, president of the state Hospitality & Tourism Association. "The slow and steady improvement in 2011 might suggest our members are well positioned for long-term growth and that leisure travelers are still committed to experiencing all New York state has to offer."

Swierzowski said before both Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, she checks with the area campgrounds to find out their occupancy numbers. She said both campgrounds run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation - Caroga Lake and Northhampton Beach - were sold out well in advance of both weekends.

Because of the economic woes that she said seemed to "last forever," area businesses didn't have high expectations for this season.

"Expectations were exceeded and they were very happy with the summer," Swierzowski said.

As far as the privately owned campgrounds go, she said many have family owned campsites that are passed down. She said those don't need promotion.

"They continue to thrive whether the economy is good, bad or indifferent," Swierzowski said. "They're great places to come to, and generational families and friends just keep coming back.

According to Jim Landrio, general manager of the Holiday Inn in Johnstown, July is the busiest month of the summer.

"Once it gets to August, kids are going back to school in some of the southern states," he said. "People are changing their focus in August to putting kids in college for the first time, or sending them back to college. Travel for families isn't as prominent in August as in the month of July."

Swierzowski focuses her promotion effort at the campgrounds and delivered 12,000 tourism bags to the seasonal campers who tend to stay through October. In the local hotels, she said, she drops off brochures for people who may be staying only for a few days.

"For some of these people, this is their second home," she said. "They're spending enormous time here and they know our businesses."

Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at



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