SCHENECTADY — New York’s tourism industry has bounced back significantly since the coronavirus pandemic restricted travel and shuttered portions of the economy back in 2020.
More than two years into the pandemic, some would-be travelers are seeking to finally take that vacation they’ve been planning, and with travel restrictions lifted for the most part and businesses fully operational, there are indications that the tourism economy will continue to rebound heading into summer.
The New York State Tourism Industry Association released a report this month that found travel spending across New York has increased significantly since dropping 84% below 2019 levels in March of 2020, the same time the economy shut down and restrictions were implemented.
The industry started to recover in 2021, growing from 65% below 2019 levels in January to 33% in December that same year, which represented a nearly $2.5 billion decline in revenue.
Bob Provost, president of the Tourism Industry Association. said there is reason for optimism heading into this summer season. Travel spending across the state has continued to increase and was just 16% below 2019 levels as of March, a gap of $1.28 billion.
But Provost pointed to a number of issues that will likely keep people from traveling, including skyrocketing gas prices that have increased by more than 50% in the past year, rising inflation and the war in Ukraine. He said it’s likely individuals will be looking to stay local or travel to destinations within a few hours’ drive as opposed to internationally or across the country.
“Staycations are going to be huge this year, but they are not going to keep people from making modest trips from home,” he said.
Todd Garofano, executive director of Discover Schenectady, a nonprofit promoting tourism throughout the county, agrees.
“It has to do with high gas prices and inflation as well as COVID. There’s a lot of pent-up demand, but folks are staying closer to home without taking the longer trips,” he said.
Garofano said the pandemic has changed how the organization promotes the region and has provided an opportunity for individuals to rediscover the attractions and events happening in their communities.
The organization has also been targeting individuals within a three-hour driving radius that are looking to experience something different without having to go too far.
Schenectady County, Garofano said, is the perfect place.
He pointed to the county’s close proximity to places such as the Hudson Valley, Syracuse and Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as the assortment of activities that range from free to more costly, like an overnight stay at Rivers Casino & Resort or a show at Proctors.
He also noted that a number of free events taking place this summer, including the return of concerts at Music Haven in Schenectady’s Central Park, as well as the Freedom Park concert Series in Scotia. Rivers Casino will also be bringing back its Harbor Jam concert series, Garafano said.
Low-cost attractions at miSci, ViaPort Aquarium and the Empire State Aerosciences Museum also offer fun and interesting activities for the entire family, and the numerous biking and jogging trails that run through the county, including the Empire State Trail, Indian Kill Nature Preserve and the Alco Rail Trail, offer free recreational options, according to Garofano.
“There’s a ton to do in Schenectady County and you don’t really need to spend a lot of money,” he said.
Garofano also noted that the county is located close to other popular tourist destinations, including Lake George and Saratoga Springs, which creates an opportunity to draw visitors from nearby communities that have yet to discover the county.
“We’re really focused on who we are and what we have to offer,” he said.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.