The Adirondack region has long been a tourism destination- especially for history buffs and the outdoor recreational set. However, due largely to aging infrastructure, many of the small communities in the region are struggling to attract their share of potential visitors in a very competitive destination marketplace.
The primary challenge is to find ways to grow tourism in the greater region, while managing growth in the more established tourism bases of Lake Placid, Old Forge and Lake George.
Not every community needs or wants to be a resort town. The task in all communities is to engineer tourism in ways that benefit area residents and their quality of life in terms of jobs and business opportunities, while preserving the culture. The loss of a grocery store because of lack of demand results in the loss of jobs for locals and a resource for both residents and visitors. However, just as a lack of facilities results in a negative spiral effect, an increase in visitor demand will drive the need for increased facilities, such as grocery stores, which in turn benefits residents.
In very general terms, most of the challenges are based on the need for updated lodging, and the development of products that will facilitate a greater exchange of money to contribute to the tourism economy – such as increased sale of locally-made goods associated with the outdoor recreational opportunities and rich history & culture of the region.
The task in all communities is to engineer tourism in ways that benefit area residents in terms of jobs and business opportunities. The process depends upon grassroots involvement of community champions who are committed to implementing short- and long-term action items outlined in the plans. In this way, the residents take ownership of the process and take pride in their accomplishments.
How do we do this? Several years ago, ROOST spearheaded a destination master planning process to assess the product that the region’s communities offer to the traveling public. This process, facilitated by a third party consultant, resulted in the development of destination master plans for six communities, including Saranac Lake, Schroon Lake, Moriah, Ticonderoga, Wilmington and Lake Placid.
Each of the communities now has a destination master plan that identifies unique challenges and strategies specific to their needs and in appropriate scale. Most of the challenges are based on the need for updated lodging and the development of products that will facilitate greater exchange of money to contribute to the tourism economy – such as increased sale of locally-made goods associated with the outdoor recreational opportunities and rich history and culture of the region.
With engaged stakeholders, private investment, Adirondack entrepreneurs, perhaps Park-specific incentive programs and other grassroots initiatives, the communities in the Adirondacks who seek to realize a real economic benefit from tourism can achieve that goal.
The Destination Master Planning process creates a road map toward that end.
The Adirondack region has a history of hospitality, several successful tourism hubs in place and exceptional four-season outdoor recreational opportunities poised to leverage private investment in lodging, restaurant, attraction and other types of tourism related venues.
Recognizing the transformative potential that tourism has in the North Country, the Regional Economic Development Council is advancing the following strategies:
1. Put tools in place to attract private investment in tourism which will drive demand to revitalize and diversify communities and create a climate that will allow entrepreneurs to flourish.
2. Develop tourism infrastructure to transform the Region by driving community development and leveraging private investment in tourism destination area communities and corridors.
An important element of advancing these tourism strategies is the definition, designation and advancement of “Tourism Destination Areas.”
A TDA is a community (or group of communities) that have the critical mass of attractions, amenities, tourism support services, accommodations and infrastructure that enables them to sustain their economy and quality of life in the tourism economic sector. These are centers of activity and enterprise along the Byways and Blueways of the North County in a broadly defined “community” that demonstrate a commitment to making tourism a key economic driver by having engaged in tourism development planning and having initiated local projects whose primary goal is tourism demand generation.
The designation as a TDA is an economic development tool to help provide communities with access to programs, financing and opportunities to advance their tourism-related economy.
A TDA has:
• A planning document (such as a destination master plan) that clearly shows success or viable intent to use tourism as an economic development tool
• A leadership commitment in writing stating that the area is committed to the development of tourism, because it takes many resources within a community to create a successful destination
• Infrastructure capacity or the capacity for expansion to meet future needs
• A marketing mechanism (Chamber of Commerce, Visitor’s Center)
• Demonstrated regional leadership by being a “voice” in the region or forging regional connections to foster economic development
ROOST is committed to collaboration with communities to identify Tourism Destination Areas, assisting in the the completion of the TDA Nomination Workbook and subsequent applications for funding, and facilitating the ongoing Destination Master Planning process.