April 26, 2007
Lisa Burns, Guest Editorial for Livingston County News
The results are in for tourism - we're friendly
More travelers are coming to the Finger Lakes region than ever before. They are staying longer and spending more.
It was largely good news reported by Randall Travel Marketing, a travel marketing organization commissioned by the 14-county Tourism Promotion Agencies of the Finger Lakes Region along with Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance to conduct tourism research within our communities. Some thing we already knew, some thing we hoped were true and some things need our attention.
In the very competitive world of destination marketing we learned from the Randall Study that this region has come a very long way from the results provided in a similar study back in 2001. One difference that stands out as particularly good news in contrast to the previous study is that now we are considered very friendly and accommodating people. In fact, the top three things people like most about our region is our scenic beauty, our grape industry and the friendly people. A smile and a "Welcome" is basic hospitality yet it makes all the difference to a visitor - it truly keeps people coming back and that is definitely what we'd like.
The information gathered in the study also showed that our largest market for visitors is the "baby boomer" generation followed by "Generation X" and the "Silent Generation." They are better educated, have a higher annual income, are energetic and make their vacation plans within one month of traveling. They utilize the internet regularly and require rapid delivery of information. They require high quality, restful accommodations and are always looking for what's new. In fact, Judy Randall, president of Randall Travel Marketing said it quite well at the public unveiling of the study results, "If you're not new, you're through." Our visitors want to come back often but also want new approaches and displays every time they return.
And they spend. On average each visitor to our region spends $341 daily. Additionally, this translates to tourism expenditures in the Finger Lakes region by visitors at $2.2 billion annually, which provides close to $400 per household in tax relief according to the Oxford Economics study commissioned by the State of New York last year.
How does this all relate to Livingston County? First and foremost, we are definitely part of the Finger Lakes Vacation Region of New York State; therefore, all the same information and data pertains to our county. We certainly have a bounty of scenic beauty - Letchworth State Park, our two Finger Lakes, Conesus and Hemlock. We have our Little Finger Lakes Wine Path and yes, we have a truly welcoming community but as the study indicated, there is always room for improvement. We need to continually embrace our visitors, understand their value, enlighten them on the wealth of beauty and attractions within our county, provide them with those services they value and above all convey our pride in our heritage. It wouldn't hurt to provide more fine lodging options, more fine dining options and more shopping options too. The Randall survey identified those three things as our region's "areas to improve." The economic impact of tourism to Livingston County would be well served if we focused on those three things as well. Over 27 million people travel annually specifically for dining on regional cuisine. Our local produce and locally produced products are among the best in the region. We stand poised to increase tourism for Livingston County based on capitalizing on our wealth of agricultural products.
It is a great time for tourism in Livingston County and in the Finger Lakes Vacation Region of New York State. We know who we are, we market ourselves effectively, we embrace technology as our best tool to capture the visitor's interest and above all, we are FRIENDLY!
Lisa Burns is the Tourism Director for Livingston County