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More money to boost tourism is smart investment

Across New York, tourism industry leaders like me were very happy to hear Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent call for increased investments in tourism infrastructure and marketing, especially in Upstate New York.

Tourism is among the top industries in New York, generating $57.3 billion in visitor spending and creating more than 714,000 jobs with total income of $29 billion. It accounts for one of every 12 jobs statewide and generates $7.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Here in the 14-county Finger Lakes region, tourism is a $2.8 billion industry, supporting more than 57,700 jobs with income totaling $1.3 billion. In addition, the industry generates $351 million in state and local taxes, contributing to the fiscal health of municipalities across the region.

In Ontario County alone, tourism is a $191.7 million industry, sustaining more than 4,200 jobs with total income of $94 million.

Recent employment figures show that over the past year, the leisure and hospitality industry had the third-largest employment increase in the state, growing by 14,200 jobs year over year. Within that industry, growth was focused in accommodation and food services, which gained 20,400 jobs.

With tourism having such a profound economic impact on our state, region and localities, you can imagine how much we support the governor’s call for more investments. From a new venture license that would combine hunting, fishing and boating licenses and driver’s licenses into one, to a new roadway signage campaign that would encourage visitors to get off the Thruway and visit our communities, to an additional $40 million in tourism marketing funds that would promote our state to visitors from across the United States, Canada and the world—we wholeheartedly endorse them all.

While we recognize the governor’s efforts, we also wholeheartedly acknowledge that successful tourism economic development is the result of an entire band working off the same song sheet. Our industry has had, and continues to need, the advocacy of our state and local elected officials, including state Sens. Michael Nozzolio and Ted O’Brien, as well as state Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, just to name a few.

Here at the local level, plans are underway to leverage any additional state investments to ensure that those dollars go even further. Our #FLX Happiness campaign, which will officially kick off later this year, will share the “micro moments” of happiness that can be experienced throughout our community—whether it’s skiing downhill at Bristol Mountain, smelling roses at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion or enjoying a glass of wine at Belhurst Castle on Seneca Lake.

In addition, the 14 tourism promotion agencies in our area are taking steps to collaborate more closely. We are working to increase awareness of the tourism industry’s economic impact and raise the industry’s profile at the local, regional, state, national and international level.

It’s important, as professionals, that we work together to better educate our elected representatives, government officials and business leaders, as well as the public at large. Working together, we can promote regional synergy and what we like to call “coopetition.”

Tourism economic development is unusual in that it’s not about big boxes and big places—or, in keeping with the band analogy, which instruments are loudest. It’s about the synergies and a sense of place that produce the best long-term results.

Valerie Knoblauch is president of the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, a member of the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council and a member of the tourism working group of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.

Finger Lakes region tourism by the numbers

  •  $2.8 billion in visitor spending
  •  57,746 jobs
  •  $1.3 billion in direct and indirect income
  •  $351 million in state and local tax revenues

3/28/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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