May 12, 2006
Tourism -- Look for Continued Growth in a Vital Industry
May is National Tourism Month. Businesses and attractions across the U.S. are gearing up for the summer tourism season and families are making their vacation plans. With all that we have to offer -- beautiful parks, fantastic fishing, thousands of campsites, and golf courses, race tracks, and historic sites, it’s no wonder that Oswego County is a popular summer destination.
In fact, visitors to Oswego County spent more than $115 million in 2003 – at campgrounds and hotels, in restaurants, grocery stores, bait shops, race tracks, and other recreational areas. According to data collected by the Northern New York Travel and Tourism Research Center at SUNY Potsdam, the tourism industry supported more than 2,000 jobs and generated more than $13 million in local government revenues in 2003. Without tourism, our unemployment rate would be nearly 20 percent, and local taxes would increase about $244 per family.
What is county government’s role in this significant industry? What are we doing to continue its growth?
Oswego County is helping to support tourism in many ways. Earlier this year the County Legislature voted to consolidate the departments of Planning and Community Development with Promotion and Tourism. Our goal was to combine the professional resources of these departments and strengthen tourism as a vital segment of Oswego County’s economy. We appointed David Turner to oversee the new department last month. The Office of Promotion and Tourism, under the direction of Christine Gray, continues its vital role of promoting Oswego County as a year-round recreation destination for visitors.
In a nutshell, the office develops visitor guides and other promotional materials, coordinates display advertising and editorial coverage in a mix of sportsmen and consumer publications, and promotes Oswego County at sportsmen shows and trade shows and on the county Web site at www.oswegocounty.com. The office partners with hundreds of tourism-related businesses and organizations to promote all of Oswego County as a leisure destination and works with chambers of commerce and visitor centers to distribute tourism information. The programs are paid for in large part by the county’s hotel and motel occupancy tax and the I Love New York matching funds program.
An important function of the new department will be to evaluate and develop plans for continued recreational growth. Using data developed by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, we see that Oswego County is well-positioned to provide services in the highest growth types of outdoor leisure activities in New York State – historic sites, ATV riding, snowmobiling, golfing, hunting, fishing, hiking, and cross-country skiing, to name a few.
The report also identifies public access to waterfront areas as one of the most important recreational needs in the state. This issue is one of the first challenges that the new department will undertake.
On May 11 the Legislature approved paying for the local share of two grant projects to inventory and evaluate the public’s access to waterfront along the Lake Ontario shoreline, the north shore of Oneida Lake, and the Oswego and Oneida river corridors. The studies will look at more than 100 miles of waterfront -- what is available now, what is lacking, and how access can be improved. The towns of Scriba and Hastings will partner with the County in the application for state funds that will help pay for the studies; when completed, the information will be available for use by all of the cities, towns and villages who have property in the study area.
Tourism will continue to be an integral part of our economy, and these projects are just a beginning. It is my goal to take advantage of every possible opportunity by devoting additional county efforts to identify our needs, bring communities together, and enhance development of the tourism industry.
Questions about the Oswego County Legislature?