LAKE PLACID - Winter has seen the least amount of economic growth of any season here over the last 20 years, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO James McKenna told the Enterprise friday during a conversation about tourism.
The winter is also the season with the biggest amount of growth potential, he added. When asked what could drive more visitors to the area in the winter, McKenna said skiing could provide a boost.
"Skier visits (per year) is about 200,000," he said. "They've stayed about pretty constant over the last 10 years. We haven't really seen growth."
James McKenna addresses the Essex County Board of Supervisors on Monday about the amount of visitors brought in from the Lake Placid Marathon.
(Enterprise photo — Matthew Turner)
McKenna compared Lake Placid with Stowe, Vermont. Like Lake Placid, Stowe is a tourism community, has a similar population size and brings in tourists through skiing in the winter months. However, Stowe draws more than double the amount of skiers, 500,000 per year, McKenna said.
"That can solve a lot of issues," he added. "The wide variety of winter activities is also a growth potential."
McKenna's comments came as he discussed the release of ROOST's annual report on the agency's marketing and tourism-driven efforts.
ROOST brought in 442,000 tourists directly, according to the independent study. Their average stay was 5.1 nights. McKenna said that was a record high visitation amount for ROOST.
"Every dollar spent on marketing generated $3.72 in sales tax to Essex County." McKenna said.
It's the 11th year in a row ROOST has contracted PlaceMaking, an independent survey company, to conduct the Leisure Travel Information Study, which can be viewed on ROOST's website. ROOST is responsible for promoting tourism to Essex County, Hamilton County, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake.
"This doesn't reflect all tourism in Essex County," McKenna told the Enterprise. "It's trackable leads."
Trackable leads are people who have responded to ROOST's marketing efforts. Following whether a trackable lead actually visited the area allows ROOST to calculate its conversion rate.
"What the conversion rate is, let's assume you go on our travel site, and we get your name and address for whatever reason," McKenna said. "The names we got, 81 percent of those people came to our destinations."
Some highlights of the survey show tourists are drawn in by outdoor recreation activities, prefer hotel accommodations and spent $93 for every occupancy tax dollar spent on marketing in 2013. ROOST is funded through a 3 percent occupancy tax on hotel lodging.
Outdoor activities continue to be the biggest tourism draw. Hiking was the most popular, followed by canoeing and kayaking, skiing and snowboarding, and cycling, according to the report.
ROOST's website, www.lakeplacid.com, received almost a million unique visitors in 2013.
The average age of ROOST's respondents is 53, according to the survey. Changing demographics is something McKenna is keeping an eye on.
"We aren't concerned about it, but we have to be aware," McKenna said. "We've got to recognize there is a younger audience now. The single largest age group is 22."
People who responded to ROOST via social media had a lower mean age of 46, had more children and also spent more money while they were here.
McKenna said the ultimate goal for any visitor is to create a "lifetime customer."
"The best costumer we have is a repeat costumer," he said.
Contact Matthew Turner at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.