CATSKILL — The Greene County Legislature approved the renewal of a contract with an advertising agency with a track record of increasing tourism.
Adworkshop, an advertising agency in Lake Placid, has been tasked with handling the county’s tourism website, email communications, broadcast productions, print production including its travel guide, campaign development and strategy as well as tracking monthly and annual performance analytics for the last six years.
The legislature approved Adworkshop’s 2019 contract in a 13-1 vote on Nov. 20. The proposed budget with the agency for the coming year is $500,000, which will be offset by grant funding.
Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, cast the lone dissenting vote.
Tourism receives too much focus when it comes to government funding, Bulich said Monday.
“We have to get money for them,” he said, referring to the agricultural community and other non-tourist industries.
Legislator Lee Palmateer, D-Athens, came to Bulich’s defense at the legislature’s Finance Committee meeting on Nov. 19, although he supported the resolution.
“He [Bulich] doesn’t think the county should pay for advertising,” Palmateer said. “I think we could leave it for the private sector or we could raise the tides for all boats.”
Legislator Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, defended the agency’s track record at the committee meeting, Palmateer said.
“Harry said it worked but didn’t address who should pay for it,” Palmateer said.
H. Lennon stood by the county’s decision to fund the advertising campaign on Tuesday.
“We get more dollars out of it,” he said, referring to tourists spending money in the county.
Bulich’s point about distributing funding was valid, Lennon said.
“I’m not disagreeing with Mike — he had valid points,” Lennon said. “We put a lot of money into tourism and not into other sectors.”
Lennon inquired about the success of the ad program with Greene County Tourism and Economic Planning Director Warren Hart and Greene County Tourism Marketing Manager Heather Bagshaw.
“I was happy with their responses,” Lennon said. “Tourism is very important to Greene County. We’re recreating ourselves.”
For the coming year, the tourism department has applied for a $200,000 grant through Film in Greene to offset the agency’s cost, Bagshaw said.
Greene County is partnering with Lumberyard for the grant. Each municipality will be required to make a 25 percent match of $50,000, Bagshaw said.
The tourism department has also applied for a grant through Empire State Development but the funding has not been awarded, she said.
Adworkshop’s biannual review shows increases in the county’s social media from January to June 2017 to January to June of this year, Bagshaw said. “We do a lot of data to support what we do here in tourism.”
“Our web traffic has increased 21.99 percent,” Bagshaw said. “We have a 17.19 percent increase in users and 16.44 percent increase in page views.”
The tourism department’s Facebook page has seen a 24 percent increase in followers, she said.
“Our Facebook traffic is up 26.19 percent, Instagram is up 18 percent and Pinterest is up 8.42 percent,” she said. Adworkshop also strives to make the county website more interactive and user-friendly, she said.
“Our travel guide is now embedded on our website,” Bagshaw added.
The department tracks how much tourists are spending in Greene County on food, beverages, retail, lodging, second homes and transportation.
“For Greene County, traveler spending was 7.8 percent higher in 2017 than in 2016,” Bagshaw said, adding that 2018 statistics will not be calculated until after the year has ended.
“The sales tax from travelers’ spending was increased 6.2 percent for state tax and 6.9 percent for local tax,” she said.
The importance of seeing these improvements is huge, Bagshaw said.
“Twenty-two percent of all employment in Greene County is sustained by visitors,” Bagshaw said. “If we did not have tourists coming into the county and paying for these services and activities, the county household tax would increase by $1,211.”