LONG LAKE - Financially endowed and aesthetically charged, baby boomers are the driving force behind the Adirondack tourist economy, according to a recent study conducted by the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA).
"We are looking at tourism as a means of viable economic development," ANCA Executive Director Terry Martino said June 4. "We are moving forward with such research in order to help local communities market themselves."
This Scenic Byways Market Assessment was based on a survey conducted in August and September 2008. It included a dozen open-ended questions seeking to determine why people come to the park and what they are looking for, Martino said.
It was released this week in conjunction with ANCA's unveiling of the scenic thoroughfare website www.adirondackscenicbyways.org.
"What I found the most striking is that people have an interest in communities that border wilderness," Martino said. "It seems that people value the interaction between nature and a community."
According to the data, 32 percent of the 328 survey respondents said that it was their first time visiting the Adirondack Park. Over 70 percent indicated that they visit the region in general and are not looking for a specific community.
"It's amazing how strong people's emotional connections are to the Park," ANCA Marketing Consultant Susan Fuller said. "We found that the people who come here are world travelers who are willing to pay more for luxury."
Fuller said that the primary Adirondack tourist demographic consists of "Baby Boomers," or those in their 60s and early 70s.
"Boomers view travel as a necessity instead of a luxury," Fuller said. "They come to pursue their own interests."
Adirondack tourists are monied, well traveled and looking for a wilderness experience and scenic vistas combined with cosmopolitan offerings like lectures and world-class hospitality, the survey findings report.
"One of the biggest complaints was people noticing that some businesses had already closed for the season - the other was black flies," Fuller said. "The local business community needs to be looking to enhance their experience."
Over 95 percent of respondents said that they were primarily interested in recreational opportunities.
ANCA has received roughly $320,000 in federal and state grants to develop and promote regional scenic byways. The site focuses on the Adirondack Trail Scenic Byway, the Central Adirondack Trail Scenic Byway - which passes through Long Lake - and the Olympic Scenic Byway.
"Byways are a way to get people to not only come to a particular place, but to explore our communities," Fuller said. "84 million people live within a day's drive of the Park and they are all great prospects for us."