Twin County officials touted recent data released by the state showing positive impacts of tourism on the local economies with most the local labor force relying on visitor spending.
Empire State Development, a state authority charged with promoting economic development, recently released regional data from 2017 showing tourism trends for local areas.
Columbia County is considered part of the Hudson Valley Region along with six other counties. Columbia County had the highest percentage of its labor force, 8.5 percent, supported by visitors than any other county in the Hudson Valley, according to the report.
In 2017, Columbia County had a 10 percent increase in visitor spending, the largest increase of any county in the Hudson Valley Region. The amount visitors spend in the county has increased steadily over the past few years: $130.5 million in 2015; $140.5 million in 2016; and $154.6 million in 2017.
“The tourism industry plays a significant role within the county and has a positive impact on our local economy,” Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell. “I am extremely pleased with the work our tourism department is doing and I’m especially pleased with the successes that the county tourism industry, businesses and organizations continue to achieve.”
Tax revenue generated by tourist spending grew 8.6 percent in 2017, or about $9.6 million in local tax revenue, which was also the largest percentage increase of any county in the region, according to the report.
Figuring in tourist tax revenue and state tax revenue, each household saves an average of $716 a year in taxes to maintain the same level of government spending.
“Once again the county’s tourism industries continue to grow at a significant rate, and we are thrilled,” said Ann Cooper, the county’s tourism administrator. “Columbia County is an amazing place to live, work or visit,”
Greene County relies heavily on tax revenue from tourism with the industry generating $11.3 million in 2017, which saved households in the county an average of $1,212 in taxes to maintain the same level of government spending, according to the report.
“We are very happy with the numbers Greene County showed in this report,” said Greene County Tourism Director Heather Bagshaw. “We saw a 7.8 percent increase in visitor spending. That is a great increase.”
Greene County has seen steady increases in visitor spending the past few years, from $151.9 million in 2015 to $158.4 million in 2016 and then $170.7 million last year.
“We try to market Greene County as a premium tourism location,” Bagshaw said. “We have a lot of amenities and a lot of new lodging companies are coming in taking over properties.”
Bagshaw cited the Eastwind Bar and Grill in Windham as a recent business to move into the county.
Next to traveler spending on second homes, lodging was the item that travelers spent the most money on in 2017 at $43.6 million, according to the report.
“That is another result of our marketing that was not included in this report. Tourism has brought in a lot of new businesses in the past few years,” Bagshaw said.
Bagshaw is attempting to sell Greene County as a four-season destination by pushing the county’s weaker, or “shoulder” seasons: spring and autumn.
“We have been promoting more in that time frame,” Bagshaw said. “We have the best spots for a view of the fall foliage, so we push that to the New York City and surrounding metro area crowd. Spring is a tough season. This year was interesting because this spring I had people skiing on the mountain and golfers playing in the valley.”
Greene County recorded the highest percentage of tourism-generated employment in the Catskills Region, which includes Delaware, Sullivan and Ulster counties, at 22 percent, with tourism generating $47.3 million in direct labor income.