“This is the best not just year to date, but also the best in the past six years that we’ve ever seen in Fulton County,” said Mark Kilmer, president and CEO of the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve seen the most rapid advancement in tourism spending for the past one year. The enhancement of $6 million or more — that’s over a 10 percent increase over last year and previous years — so that is phenomenal. We’ve hit the $60 million mark in terms of tourism spending. That’s the first time in our history that we’ve done that.”
The statistics, which show traveler spending for the Capital-Saratoga Region of New York — including Albany, Fulton, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Washington Counties — is based on spending in the following criteria: lodging, recreation, food and beverage, retail and service stations, transport and second homes. Of the counties involved in the study, Fulton County saw the third highest tourist spending increase of the bunch —behind only Schenectady County, which saw a massive 53.2 percent increase likely due to the Rivers Casino and Resort that opened in 2017, and Saratoga County with a 27.4 percent increase, a mere 0.3 percent higher than Fulton County. Traveler spending in Fulton County increased from a total of $50,527,000 in 2014 to $64,255,000 in 2018.
Chamber Tourism Director Gina DaBiere-Gibbs said that in general, tourism spending is up statewide, including in Montgomery County, which the chamber also represents. But Kilmer pointed out that tourism has seen a particularly sharp rise in Fulton County, and attributes much of this rise to the marketing efforts of the Chamber’s tourism sector.
“This has been a very rapid rise over the past eight years. So there’s got to be a reason for that. It’s not just the economy, because 2008 was a low time, but it’s been a steady rise. But this rapid rise all of a sudden is something that I can’t explain, other than the fact that we’ve done a very good job at what we do. I would just like to say we’re doing a phenomenal job.”
As the Tourism Director for both Fulton and Montgomery Counties, DaBiere-Gibbs is responsible for promoting tourist attractions in the region through advertising, website content development, social media activities, brochure design, printing and distribution, special events coordination and visitor relation.
“We do a multi-media marketing plan. Print, digital, radio, social media, plus collateral,” Dabiere-Gibbs said. “We track visitors at the visitor center, we look at our website analytics, our 800 number calls that we track. We track when people call and request brochures and where they’re coming from. So we match that all up and continue to market in those markets.”
DaBiere-Gibbs said that the success of the chamber’s tourism endeavors is incumbent upon keeping up with the times.
“It’s [about] keeping up with the trends,” DaBiere-Gibbs said. “When I first started, social media was just a new thing. You didn’t even have business pages on social media. So keeping up with trends like that. Digital advertising wasn’t even heard of. So really assessing the marketing and the return on investment and trying to stay relevant.”
“I think one of the reasons we are constantly increasing is because we’re improving our system all the time,” Kilmer added “It’s all about knowing your markets and knowing who your customer is and knowing your product that you have to offer to the customer. Our product, of course, is the tourism related things like camping, outdoors activities, fishing, hunting, enjoyment of the wilderness and the scenic southern Adirondacks as well as our historical venues. That’s all done through proper types of advertising, everything from social media, to print ads, to TV and radio and such, as well as placement of brochures. And that’s all part of [DaBiere-Gibb’s] job — to determine where this goes, to kind of get an idea of where the markets are best for this. ”
Bill VanVoast, a chamber tourism associate at the Fulton County Tourist Information Center, located at 3687 Route 30 in Broadalbin, said last week that the center sees roughly 20 to 30 visitors on a daily basis and can see up to 100 a day during peak seasons.
“They come from all over the world,” VanVoast said while flipping through the center’s visitor log book. “Israel; Florida; Ontario; Minnesota; Hamburg, Germany; Switzerland. Everyone is incredible. I try to talk to them and find out what they’re doing. For the most part, they’re heading straight north into the Adirondacks.”
Kilmer said that the growth of tourism in the county is something that he is particularly proud of.
“There was no county tourism program when we started doing that type of thing, going back 30 years. And I’m always proud. I have a passion for tourism. I think it’s one of the best industries that we can have. It’s an industry where every dollar spent usually revolves in the community. Most of your tourism businesses are locally owned and they’re the people that in turn for that dollar they shop at the local hardware store, they shop at the local meat market, they shop at the local this or that, or go to the local repair person. So that’s why there’s such a turn over and that’s why tourism is so beneficial. And that’s not just here, it’s everywhere.”