Tourists flock to area despite high gas prices

LAKE GEORGE Tourism was up this year, according to the Warren County Tourism Department and many local tourist-related businesses agree. Its the best year ever, and it hasn't stopped, said Sandi Parisi, of the Country Road Lodge in Warrensburg. I just did my figures and we are currently up exactly 3 percent over last year. Thats about where a survey put the increase for summer and fall this year. According to Smith Travel Research, a national independent research company providing tourism trend data, room occupancy was up 3.6 percent at its member properties in the county from June 24 through early October. Late summer and fall were particularly busy, according to the survey, and Parisi had similar results. Winter was off and spring was very slow, but summer started picking up and by mid-October we had beat our best year, and then some, she said. Guests came from everywhere, including Spain, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland and Norway. Canadians played a big part in the increase, with the advantageous exchange rate. Gary Thornquist, manager of the Lake George RV Park said they had an excellent year. This summer we were definitely busier than ever, Thornquist said. We lost a lot of Canadian visitors over the years, but weve replaced them with others, and this year, theyre back. This increase was despite rising gas prices, approaching $3 a gallon. Al Smith of Alynns Butterfly Inn in Warrensburg said that he and other innkeepers had a slow spring and early summer. Its my feeling that when everybody started paying $3 a gallon, maybe the people from the New York City area went to the Catskills to save some money, Smith said. But they just got used to paying that much, and by late summer and fall, they were back. Smith said that this year has been one of the two best in the eight years theyve been open. Even now, with now snow yet, theyre still coming, for no reason except to get away from the rat race, he said. Tom Mastrodomenico, owner of Pizzeria Mangia in Lake George, said hes had a really good fall. The weather has been great for us, and the weekends have been great for business, he said. Overall, Id say business was about the same; better in some areas and not in some others. He and his neighbors in the Mayard Center remain open throughout the year. Playing a big role in the summers successful season, according to Kate Johnson of Warren County Tourism, was the new marketing campaign, including a fall TV ad campaign and improvements to its website. Between May and October, website visits increased 5.14 percent to 309,005, and more than 9,000 coupons were downloaded for savings on lodging, attractions and dining. The departments 80-page Travel Guide was downloaded 3,350 times during the summer. One special early fall event that contributed to the regions tourism boost was the 250th commemoration of the French and Indian War where an estimated 23,000 spectators witnessed the sights, sounds and experiences of 18th century Colonial America, as re-enactors recreated the battle that ended in the surrender of Fort William Henry and the ensuing massacre during a three-day weekend in September.

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