SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady River Rink, a popular attraction that brought thousands into the city’s downtown area last year, will not be returning this season, but officials remain optimistic about winter tourism.
The rink, which was in Mohawk Harbor, will not be back for a second season due to inflated upfront cost demanded by the company — Flight Entertainment, according to Todd Garofano, executive director of Discovery Schenectady, the county’s tourism arm.
“The operators, they were looking for a big subsidy just to offset the cost of just the logistics and everything about it,” he said. “They just determined that it wasn’t going to work out.”
Flight Entertainment did not return a request seeking comment.
Garofano acknowledged the 60- by 100-foot rink was a popular attraction that officials were hoping to bring back, but noted Schenectady County’s tourism prospects this winter are not only expected to be successful, but lay the groundwork for expanded tourism in years to come.
He pointed to an assortment of new and returning events heading into the holiday season that are expected to draw large crowds, including the Schenectady County Historical Society and YWCA’s annual Festival of Trees that runs through Dec. 23 and the Illuminocity light festival in downtown Schenectady that runs through Jan. 14.
Chanukah on Jay is set to return to the Jay Street Marketplace on Dec. 18, and the Wintertime Wonderland, a new attraction located at the old Kmart space at the ViaPort mall in Rotterdam is set to run through Dec. 23.
“Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” which has attracted over 100,000 people, has been extended through Jan. 2 at the Armory Studios, and events at Proctors and Rivers Casino remain popular, Garofano said. He also pointed to the county’s various outdoor recreational offerings, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ice skating, which is still being offered at Schenectady’s Central Park.
“Fortunately for us, there’s so much else going on that we’re excited about,” Garofano said.
Still, concerns about the increasing number of reported COVID-19 cases and the worst flu season in a years are things tourism officials are paying close attention to.
Then there’s the economy.
Inflation still stands at 7.7%, as of October, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While still high, the consumer price index has actually fallen from the 9.1% high this year, reported in June.
A recent survey by the travel research firm Longwoods International found that the number of Americans planning to spend more on holiday travel this season has fallen to 24%, down from 31% in September.
The survey, which polled 1,000 adults 18 and over on Nov. 28, also found that 27% of respondents are planning to spend less on travel, an increase of 8% from September, when that number was 19%.
Amir Eylon, president and CEO of Longwoods International, said climbing interest rates and financial uncertainty are the factors.
“While demand for holiday travel remains strong, economic realities may squeeze how much travelers are willing to spend on their holiday trips,” Eylon said in a statement.
But the survey found more optimistic opinions about the future, with 91% of respondents reporting making travel plans over the next six months. The number of travelers changing plans due to COVID-19 concerns dropped to 33%, the lowest since the pandemic began.
Garofano said that any concerns about travel have yet to be felt in Schenectady County, where many hotels reported occupancy rates in line with those seen in 2019, a year prior to the pandemic.
He pointed to a recent study by Smith Travel Research that tracks occupancy rates as reason to be optimistic heading into the winter.
The report found that occupancy rates at local hotels increased each month this past year, compared to 2021. Year-to-date, Schenectady County hotels have reported an occupancy rate of 63.4% through October, a 17% increase from the previous year when 54% of hotel rooms were full.
The average daily rate for overnight accommodations has also increased, according to the study, from $113.72 in 2021 to $128.34, equivalent to 13%.
The higher occupancy rate at a time when travel costs have also risen is a good sign for the tourism industry, Garofano said.
“Everybody’s holding strong. We’re having an amazing year coming off what many of the hotels reported as a record summer,” he said. “The momentum has carried right into the fall and into the winter as well. We’ve been fortunate.”
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.