By Mark Kilmer
For the Express
Summer came to a close this week and autumn has started – it’s the time when days get shorter and nights get cooler, and the local tourism economy focuses on fall events – craft fairs, pumpkin picking, leaf peeping, hiking and more.
But now…a summer recap. I took the time to call about 20 tourism properties in various categories to assess how well the summer was for their businesses. In every case, it seems it was a summer of success. I asked them to rate their summer experience by using the terms bad, okay, good, very good or excellent. Only one said good, and the rest of the 19 gave the summer a “very good” or “excellent” rating. While almost all said that the uptick in business was attributable to some ideal weather conditions, most also felt that there was a noticeable increase in visitors from both outside the area as well as people from within our region.
This, I believe, is an indication that our tourism marketing efforts are working. Not only do we have a multi-faceted marketing program aimed at prospective visitors outside our region, but we have made more attempts to encourage locals to experience the adventures and pleasures in their own backyards. And, despite the fact that we have done no scientific measurements, many seem to think it’s happening.
For the Chamber’s Tourism Department, this has been a busy, and successful, year. The nationally-known Outdoor Channel show, “Fishing University,” returned this year to our region for the second time in 12 months, something that the show has rarely done. Talking to the show’s hosts, they said they just love the area, the folks, and most of all, the fishing! They also expressed a desire to come back in the future to experience other waterways in our region.
Also, along with so many great events happening in our area, we again held the Peck’s Lake Sprint Triathlon and our annual $10,000 “Bet on Fulton County” Raffle which raises money to help with local tourism promotion. Also this year, we partnered with the Saratoga County tourism program to produce an updated and enhanced map of the Great Sacandaga Lake.
As many of you may know, on January 1, 2015, the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce took on the task of administering the tourism program for Montgomery County, something we have been doing for Fulton County for over 20 years. We had set several goals for the 2015 Montgomery County program, and I am pleased to say that by September 1, 2015, each and every benchmark had been met. Besides all the transitional needs, these goals included publication of the first Montgomery County travel guide in ten years, the hiring of a tourism associate to focus on Montgomery County projects and tourism properties and attractions, a new weekly e-mail blast of Montgomery County events, a reinvigorated and growing social media program, an updated two-county snowmobile map, and major website updates. All these, plus a continued presence at major state tourism conferences and meetings, consistent outreach to tourism sites and properties, representation at the New York State Fair and making sure our information is always available at Visitors Center throughout the state, makes certain that our tourism program is constantly on the upswing.
Summer may now be over, but fall provides a different type of fun for visitors and residents alike. So, I’ll see you in the orchard, winery, pumpkin patch-or maybe on a colorful trail on the Erie Canalway or on one of our 44 lakes!
Kilmer is the president/CEO of the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce