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Canadian tourism booming locally

LAKE GEORGE With the summer season coming to a close, business owners and county officials are taking a hard look at how this years tourism revenue measures up to previous seasons. A recent foot survey of village motels, in combination with county and village data, yielded mixed results, accompanied by indications that Canadian tourism has increased substantially. Julia Esser has owned and operated tourist-based businesses in the Lake George region for 36 years. Esser currently operates the Adirondack Oasis and Acorn Lodge on state Rte. 9. Last year we were hanging in there, but not this year everything is way down, Esser said. June and July were some of the worst summer months on record, according to Esser. She explained that major community events prompted healthy business, but non-event weekends and mid-weeks were a total loss. Ora Jansen has been the manager of the Lake George Econo Lodge for four seasons. She too reported very poor June and July statistics based on total room-nights booked and income relative to previous years. However, Jansen said that a significant increase in Canadian tourism due to the recent strength of the Canadian dollar substantially offset the losses. I think they are saving us, she said of the Canadian tourists. They dont seem to mind spending the money this year. Local motel operators up and down the Rte. 9 strip reported similar results. Several reported total revenue declines peaking at around 15 percent when compared to seasons three or four years prior. However, in mid-August, many motels reported a late-season spike in reservations. We have been down for years, said James Kim, owner-operator of the Lake Motel. Our August is looking way up, which would be great. Warren County Tourism Director Cate Johnson said this week that there are a lot of factors at play in regards to the viability of family-owned motels. Johnson reported that requests for regional information at the County Tourism Department were up 14.4 percent over last year. It is likely that many small motels are not doing as well because the impulsive traveler is staying home this year, she said. Johnson said that people visiting the Lake George region many coming from the New York City region and New Jersey are now tending to make reservations prior to arriving in the village. She said that with the chain motels amenities and convenient online reservation systems, the market may now be shifting away from the independent mom-and-pop accommodations. Also, fewer visitors are driving through the village looking for a place to stay, she said. A person close to Lake Georges Wingate Inn who requested anonymity said that the number of rooms filled throughout the season are up significantly this year. Other chain motel managers said they also were faring well. Johnson also noted that an increase in Canadian visitors is responsible for a lot of new revenue. The Beekmantown Welcome Center, just south of the U.S.-Canadian border has seen a spike in first-time Canadian tourists this season, she said. During the month of June, the center registered a record-breaking 36 percent increase in Canadians visiting, compared to June 2007. Survey information collected at Beekmantown shows that the Lake George region is the top destination for Canadians traveling down the I-87 corridor, she said. The majority of Canadians coming here are first-timers, Johnson said. This represents another example of our area being attractive because it is easy to get to and affordable. Johnson said that state sales tax revenue for the first and second fiscal quarters of 2008, collected and reported by the state, indicated economic growth in the region. The village of Lake George Waste Water treatment plant also considered a good gauge of tourism volume reported a nearly identical amount of sewage flowing through the system relative to 2007. However, plant operator Reggie Burlingame said that these numbers are likely inflated by stormwater. With all the rain we had this year, if the population of tourists was steady, the numbers would be up, he said. Thats not the case, so our data shows a stagnancy.

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