The Schenectady County legislature approved Tuesday night the creation of a dedicated tourism and visitors bureau.
The legislature voted 13-0 in favor of the measure to create the new entity, which leaders said will help the county capitalize on the area’s new hotels and casino. In discussions last week about the bureau, legislators were largely supportive of the measure, saying the timing is right to take advantage of new offerings in the area.
The Rivers Casino & Resort is set to open in early 2017 along the Mohawk Harbor site. In addition, a Marriott will open soon along Erie Boulevard and a Homewood Suites is being constructed on Freemans Bridge Road. That hotel – Glenville’s first – is scheduled for a spring opening.
Nearly $400,000 is set aside in the county’s proposed 2017 budget to cover start-up costs for the tourism bureau’s first year. After that, the entity will be funded by the county’s bed tax on hotels and motels, revenue from which is expected to increase with the opening of additional hotels in 2017.
As an added layer, the county is proposing to raise that bed tax from 4 percent to 5 percent, which would still be in line with other cities and counties in the Capital Region.
The bureau would be separate from the county legislature, but the legislature would maintain oversight of the body to an extent. For example, legislatures would be responsible for appointing members to a 15-person board of directors that would lead the bureau.
The bureau will employ three people, the county manager said last week.
Tourism and promotional activities had been handled by Proctors, which established various social media accounts and a website with “Visit Schenectady” branding. The theater will wind down its operations on that front, despite making progress in luring event planners to the area in recent months.
The county’s contract with Proctors is set to expire at the end of 2016, said Gary Hughes, majority leader of the legislature, who sponsored the resolution to create the bureau. The new bureau’s board of directors will determine what to do with the “Visit Schenectady” website and social media accounts.
Reach Gazette reporter Brett Samuels at 395-3113, [email protected] or @Brett_Samuels27 on Twitter.