This is the 40th year of National Travel and Tourism Week, the annual celebration of the contributions of the U.S. travel industry to communities. This year’s recognition focuses on the role that travel plays in driving economic growth, innovation, and community uplifting. As I acknowledge this significant milestone, I cannot help but look back at the journey and progress the tourism industry within Ontario County has made.
Looking back 40 years ago, the sparks that were beginning to fly about travel and tourism as a staple of the economy were just that – sparks. Together as a community, we embarked on the mission of building economic benefit through sales tax revenue and creating jobs. Over the past 40 years, that goal has matured to not only recognizing the importance of bringing tourism in from outside the county, but also nurturing the community that calls Ontario County home.
Travel serves as a catalyst for the U.S. economy, the New York State economy – and of course, our Finger Lakes economy. Successful tourism fuels other industries, ranging from the services who perform our audits, to landscapers who make our businesses inviting, to farmers, artists, and retailers who provide local goods to our millions of visitors.
As the President of Ontario County’s tourism agency, I have seen firsthand the positive impact tourism has upon the lifestyle and community of the Finger Lakes Region as a great place to live, work and play. Just as importantly, I have seen the numbers. Tourism jobs are 7% of our workforce. 4,121 people in Ontario County, generating an annual labor income of $126,900,000 for our residents – which no doubt gets spread with purchases throughout the county. We know that the rewards are more than monetary. It’s our lifestyle as well.
Ontario County is blessed to have an astute group of entrepreneurs, tapped to innovate, and strategize to grow our community. The model has worked. We have created a vibrant community that attracts visitors and residents alike. Together as a community, we have grown this economy and reaped not only the financial rewards, but the lifestyle rewards as well.
According to Tourism Economics, were it not for tourism generated state and local taxes, the average household in the region would have to pay an additional $512 to match the same level of government revenue. In Ontario County – that number rises to $716 per household. That’s a lot of revenue coming in from our visitors! That’s why it takes a community – residents and paid tourism folks alike - to host a visitor.
As we look to the future, Finger Lakes Visitor’s Connection is committed to fostering the growth and development of our communities and our economy. This National Travel and Tourism Week, we thank the supporters we’ve had in developing tourism – especially the founders of this concept that tourism is important to our whole economy. There’s more to come here, as next year is Finger Lakes Visitors Connection’s 40th year – and we’re excited to share our past results, our momentum, and our future vision.
I am proud to celebrate all that travel does for our communities and all it will contribute to in the future. To all who read this – if you love the Finger Lakes, you are part of our story of success; you are part of our future as we “#TravelForward” together.
If anyone wants to learn more about all there is to see or do in Ontario County, our website is VisitFingerLakes.com. If you’d love to learn more about National Tourism Week and the power of our industry, use the same address – search for partners to get data and see how Finger Lakes Visitors Connection intends to move the industry forward.
Thanks to everyone who “takes part” in tourism in our area. Whether you’re directly involved or just a supporter with community pride, it all matters! Happy National Travel and Tourism Week!