A good tourist season?
Some signs point that way
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MONTICELLO, NY — The national unemployment rate is up to 8.5 percent and rising, credit is still tight for buying such things as new cars and it doesn’t look as if things will miraculously turn around before summer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the tourist season in Sullivan County and the surrounding area will suffer.
At a meeting at the county government center on April 2, Roberta Byron-Lockwood, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA), had some good news about tourism figures from 2008. Last summer, the economy was already faltering and gas prices were at record levels well north of $4 per gallon. Yet, despite that environment, visitor spending increased in the county.
Lockwood told county lawmakers that visitor spending in 2008 was over $326 million, which amounts to a 12.1 percent increase over 2007 levels. By comparison, visitor spending in Orange County was $424.5 million, which translates to an increase of just 1.5 percent, and other counties, such as Rockland and Westchester, actually lost visitor dollars from 2007 to 2008.
Lockwood also said that her agency is ahead of where it was at the same time last year in terms of requests for the newly minted county travel guide. Lockwood and others are hoping that vacationers who opt not to fly to far-flung locations
overseas this summer will focus on the closer-to-home Catskills and Upper Delaware region, which for millions of people is just a gas tank away.
Others on the SCVA board also addressed the legislature. Rick Lander, president of Landers River Trips, said that so far reservations were ahead of last year’s level and they’re anticipating a good year, “as long as the weather holds up.”
In another development that might be a sign of the times, Tim McCausland, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, told the legislature that over the course of the past month or so he had seen more notices in the county for the formation of limited liability corporations than ever before. He attributed this to a growing number of people who want to control their own economic futures and are forming new small businesses.