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County tourism official pleased with revenue gains

The head of one of the region's largest tourism organization says recent gains in sales and occupancy tax revenues bode well for Essex County.

Jim McKenna is president and CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says a report unveiled Monday by Essex County Treasurer Michael Diskin shows the region is recovering in certain economic areas.

McKenna says occupancy tax revenues are trending upward.

"If we look at just last year, we're running 8 percent of last year," he said. "Last February was the only month we were off last year. If we look at the four year average, we're running about 5 percent above it at this point."

Through April 13, occupancy tax revenues were up by 12 percent, McKenna says.

Increased snowfall may have played a big factor in the occupancy tax gains.

Jon Lundin is spokesman for the state Olympic Regional Development Agency. He says Whiteface Mountain was open for 138 days this year, registering 247 inches of natural snow.

McKenna predicts that this positive growth will continue through the summer.

"We're projecting right now that with some new events this summer these projections will continue," he said.

A spike in sales tax revenues is due in part to increased gas prices. But McKenna says that doesn't necessarily mean visitors to the area - and local residents - aren't starting to spend more.

"For visitors' expenditures, we usually say about one-third is from the hotel industry," he said. "Two-thirds of those increases we can see are in other areas. That could mean a combination of retail, restaurants, and in some cases, gas. There's that 8 percent increase we're seeing over last year that does translate to other expenditures as well."

Officials hope that increased Canadian tourism in the North Country will translate to even greater recovery as the year progresses.

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