04 Feb 2015 Tourism Initiatives Highlight Special Tourism Council Meeting
Saranac Lake, N.Y. – Tourism initiatives highlighted a special meeting of the Tourism Council held on January 20th at the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake. Representatives from various organizations and municipalities met to discuss current programs and tourism initiatives at the information-packed gathering.
The Tourism Council is an informal stakeholder’s group created to facilitate information sharing, encourage the promotion of tourism activities, assist in the coordination among all tourism partners and to act as a voice for the regional tourism economy.
The meeting agenda began with two special presentations. The first was a progress report of 2014 marketing efforts for Saranac Lake by Carol Joannette, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism’s (ROOST) Vice President. The presentation summarized media exposure of the destination, and outlined the various social media accounts that interact with visitors on behalf of Saranac Lake, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest.
Joannette illustrated the importance of content development on the destination website. “Since its redesign, there have been 480 blog posts added to saranaclake.com,” said Joannette. “Those blog posts have generated over 27,000 page views, and 18,800 entrances to the site.”
Joannette described overall statistics and site visitor demographics. She reported that increased content development, plus an integrated email marketing strategy has resulted in a 21 percent increase in website traffic, and organic traffic (those who found the website by searching on Google, for instance) is up over 195 percent over 2013. “These efforts are working,“ she continued. “For 2015, although we’ll remain flexible to take advantage of new opportunities, we plan to continue to implement this same strategy.”
The second special presentation was an introduction to the Adirondack Community-based Trails and Lodging System (ACTLS) project by Jack Drury, project director and co-owner of Leading E.D.G.E, a professional development consulting firm. With an illustrative slide show, he described the objectives of the project. “The project seeks to develop a trail system with huts or other overnight accommodations modeled after the Great Walks in New Zealand, or the trekking network in Norway,” said Drury. ”The(ACTLS) project will identify opportunities to connect communities by trails for self-powered users and identify existing lodging facilities as well as strategic locations for future lodging.” The ACTLS is an initiative funded by the New York State Department of State through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
The group was introduced to Rick Dean, Operations Specialist for RGH Hospitality, representing the Hotel Saranac. Dean spoke briefly on behalf of the Hotel, underscoring his interest in continued open communication as the Hotel project continues.
The group then heard from municipal partners about their tourism initiatives.
Barb Rice, Franklin County Legislator reported Franking County activities in 2014 and initiatives for 2015. Though they were not successful in getting an Occupancy Tax enacted for the County in 2014, they were successful in securing funding to contract with ROOST for the Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake tourism promotion and for continuing the Golf Malone and Ski Titus promotions in the Malone area. Rice provided an overview of the county’s agenda for 2015 that included renewed efforts to get an Occupancy Tax passed. “This is of primary importance, said Rice. “It is necessary in order to create a sustainable funding mechanism for tourism promotion.” Other 2015 initiatives include a recently distributed RFP aimed at hiring a marketing/promotional agency or organization to act as a TPA for the County, and the implementation of Economic Development initiatives in Franklin County to include an Advisory Board to make recommendations to the economic development committee.
Harrietstown Town Councilman Ron Keough urged the importance of early planning and ongoing contact with elected representatives to ensure inclusion in the budget planning process. Keough encouraged ongoing support of the occupancy tax and broadband implementation effort, and stressed the importance of beginning the process of updating the town’s website in 2015.
Tupper Lake Supervisor Patti Littlefield mentioned that the Town is seeking funding via a Smart Growth grant for a program to focus on assisting local businesses in creating, updating and maintaining a quality website. Littlefield hopes to continue efforts in 2015 to complete a walking trail project. “The trail would allow folks to enjoy a walk or bike ride from the junction area in Tupper Lake to the Wild Center,” said Littlefield.
Reports from tourism industry representatives included an update on Historic Saranac Lake by board member Skip Outcalt and Executive Director Amy Catania. They were excited to report that a grant from the REDC will allow them to hire a new public programs coordinator, and another successful grant will support complete renovation of the exhibits at the Saranac laboratory Museum on Church Street. They are looking forward to a series of unique upcoming events, including a PBS American Experience Series Film Premier and Discussion with Brian Mann and Howard Riley as part of the Winter Carnival schedule.
Sandy Hildreth was on hand to report on Saranac Lake ArtWorks. Their website saw over 114,000 visits in 2014, and she anticipates an even busier 2015. “This year, our marketing is going to focus on our galleries and events,” said Hildreth. “With a very a busy events calendar and a full schedule of monthly gallery exhibits and receptions we’re also looking into the possibility of hiring a part-time ‘arts coordinator’, perhaps in partnership with another organization.”
Dan Sullivan, member of the Adirondack Wellness Iniative and Adirondack Wellness Network reported that he will be participating in the Cycle Adirondacks event in 2015, providing massage therapy. The Adirondack Wellness Network will be voting on Feb. 5 to determine if the group will be the official Wellness Supporter for the event. Cycle Adirondacks is a 60-75 miles daily bike tour that begins and ends in Saranac Lake. The event is a fundraiser for the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Brian MacDonnell, manager of the Paul Smiths VIC reported that the Adirondack Watershed Alliance (AWA) will coordinate the 2015 Adirondack Paddle Promotion, a multi-phased approach to promoting flat water paddling opportunities in the North Country region, including the Adirondacks, Thousand Islands, St. Lawrence, lewis, Oswego and Humility Counties. The promotion was funded through a 2013 award to the North Country Regional economic Development Council Tourism Committee.
MacDonnell is also working with the New York State Marathon Canoe Race Association (NYMCRA) to support an “Adirondack Watershed Race Circuit” of 6 races to highlight the diversity of paddling opportunities in the region and showcase the numerous watersheds percolating from the Adirondack State Park.
The North Country Paddle Challenge will also coordinate with NYMCRA on the paddling events calendar; A one day Event Coordinator Training workshop on February 28 at the Paul Smith’s College VIC; A partnership to bolster participation in the 200 & 400 Mile Clubs; The development of a comprehensive email list serve to disseminate information to paddlers; a Facebook page; and a blog to highlight paddling opportunities, events routes and trip itineraries around the region.
The meeting was facilitated by Ernest Hohmeyer of the Lake Clear Lodge & Retreat and Adirondack Spirit.”This meeting was a terrific exchange of information,” said Ernest Hohmeyer. “Increased collaboration and communication can only strengthen our region’s communities,”
In addition to those reporting, special meeting attendees included Tracey Legat of the Wild Center, James McKenna, Kim Rielly and Kerry Shannon Blinn of ROOST, and Joe Dadey of the ACTLS project. The Tourism Council’s next meeting will be held in spring, as the group agreed to move to a quarterly schedule to coincide with the beginning of each season to review activities and events.