Visitor spending was up nearly 3 percent in Fulton County in 2011 and is back above the total at the start of the recession in 2008, a further sign of a recovering economy, according to an economic report.
Visitor spending in Fulton County totaled $48.8 million in 2011, up 2.6 percent from $47.5 million in 2010. Figures for 2012 will not be available until mid-2013. The 2011 figure is also above the totals of $46 million in 2009 and $48.3 million in 2008.
“The growth indicates people are out and spending their money and coming to Fulton County for various reasons,” said Gina DaBiere-Gibbs, director of tourism for the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Business and Industry.
Visitor spending measures tourism-related purchases in economic sectors involving lodging, recreation, food and beverage, retail and service stations, transportation, and second homes. Tourism is one of the largest industries in the state.
The data is collected by the Empire State Development Corp. and shared annually with each county’s tourism promotion agency. Fulton County’s tourism promotion agency is the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Business and Industry. The chamber received $38,000 for tourism promotion through the state’s “I Love New York” program this year; the county provided a $38,000 match.
Fulton County is part the Capital Region economic region, which also includes Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Washington counties. The region witnessed a 6.8 percent growth in visitor spending, to $1.6 billion, in 2011 compared to a year earlier, according to the report. Saratoga County saw a 4.4 percent increase to $393 million for the same period. Figures for other counties were not immediately available.
Visitor spending data is one of two main metrics the local chamber uses to determine local tourism activity and the success of tourism promotion. The second is sales tax revenues. DaBiere-Gibbs said local sales tax revenues and property taxes collected on second homes increased almost $3 million in 2011. “This is not specifically all for tourism, but a part of that is people” spending on lodging, recreation, food and beverage, retail and service stations, transportation and second homes when they visit the county, she said.
She said people come to Fulton County primarily to camp, to visit the Great Sacandaga Lake or to engage in agri-tourism activities. “We offer outdoors and agriculture. Agriculture is a big draw for Washington and Fulton counties. It includes farm tours and people coming to the area to pick fruit and vegetables,” she said. “Sometimes it is hard to quantify tourism dollars based on what we offer.”
For example, Fulton County does not have a hotel/motel room occupancy tax, as other counties do. The tax is another measure of tourism activity. County supervisors tried to get one passed by the state Legislature last session, but state elected officials said they could not support a tax of any kind.
DaBiere-Gibbs said Fulton County has more campsites than hotel/motel rooms. The county has 1,388 transient and seasonal sites, which includes cabins; 56 non-campground cabins and house rentals; and 244 hotel/motel and bed and breakfast rooms.