LAKE PLACID — Visitors to Essex County last year spent more and were younger and more outdoor-oriented than usual, a new report says.
They spent $89 for every $1 the Lake Placid-based Essex County Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) expended in marketing to attract them, the Leisure Travel Information Study says.
The study estimates visitor spending in Essex County went from $89 million in 2010 to $117 million last year, based on those who visited because of Sustainable Tourism’s marketing.
Also, people who visited Essex County as a result of social media like Facebook and Twitter spent more money than those who came through print or Internet ads.
Sustainable Tourism hired the PlaceMaking group of Plattsburgh, the successor to the Technical Assistance Center at Plattsburgh State, to conduct the 22-question study.
Office of Sustainable Tourism President James McKenna said 32,000 surveys were sent out, and 1,400 usable responses were received, a 5 percent response rate, which is typical of such studies.
McKenna said half the responses were from New York state residents.
Outdoor activities were the largest attraction, and social-media marketing like Facebook and Twitter accounted for 10 percent of the survey responses.
He said 49 was the average age, 14 percent were from Canada, and the average stay was 2.8 days, down from four days in 2010.
The information is used to determine how the Office of Sustainable Tourism will spend the $1.3 million it gets every year from Essex County’s 3 percent occupancy tax.
“These are trends that inform our marketing strategies, and they (can) be taken into consideration as tourism-related businesses plan for the future,” McKenna said. “The decrease in visitors from outside of the Northeast and Canada is consistent with the trend toward taking vacations within a day’s drive, and the shorter stay is not surprising, given the economic downturn.”
Visitors from beyond New York, the Northeast or Canada were 21 percent of respondents in 2010, but only 13 percent last year.
McKenna said per-day spending was higher for visitor parties who came to Essex County due to social media: $660 versus $428 for others.
Sustainable Tourism Director of Communications Kimberly Rielly said the study used the trackable-leads database compiled by the organization.
“New leads are added on a constant basis: walk-in visitors, phone and mail inquiries and Web signups. The study’s intent is to determine the effectiveness of ROOST’s marketing programs.”
She said most people visited Essex County to hike.
“Outdoor activities have not only remained at the top of the list of activities that attracted visitors to the region, they’ve steadily grown in popularity as a draw. Hiking was the most popular reported outdoor activity, followed by canoeing and kayaking. Outdoor activities were followed by relaxing, dining and shopping and sightseeing,” she said.
“We base all our marketing going forward on that. That’s why we push the outdoor opportunities.”
Essex County has most of the High Peaks, the more than 4,000-feet-high mountains beloved by many hikers.
Rielly said they tracked social-media recipients separately.
“This group also reported nearly double the draw for skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing and higher levels of attraction to Olympic sites than the rest of the respondents. That’s notable because for the majority of respondents, skiing fell 5 percent and Olympic sites fell 15 percent as activities that attracted them to the area.”
She said the social-media types were also younger, with the average age of 44 compared to 49 for visitors overall.
In addition to the demographic data and trends, the study measured a factor called return-on-investment, which is the ratio for marketing expenditures versus those who actually visited the region and spent money as a result of those efforts.
The return is measured by dividing visitor expenditures by marketing dollar spent. That factor was 89:1, or $89 spent by tourists for every $1 expended on advertising. It was 65:1 in 2010, but the five-year average is 85:1.
“It’s good to have the average to compare, so we can see anything that’s a real anomoly,” Rielly said.
In Essex County, tourism-related industries are second in employment only to government. The county has 1,116 food-service jobs, with a $26 million payroll; and 659 lodging jobs, with $25 million in labor costs. A total of about 1,300 tourism-related jobs exist in the county.
Essex County had 338,782 visitors from Office of Sustainable Tourism contacts in 2011, according to the report.
After McKenna released the study to the Essex County Board of Supervisors recently, Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey (D-Minerva) praised him for the work his group does.
“It was a great presentation,” she said. “Thank you for all you do.”
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