Just over a year ago, Schoharie County had a prime setup planned for promoting attractions and visits for the busy fall tourism season.
An ad in a travel magazine inserted into the Wall Street Journal was joined by five-second mini-movies running on the big screens in New York City’s Times Square.
Directing traffic to the county’s tourism website was one primary goal of the advertising campaign for which the county signed a contract just a week before Tropical Storm Irene plastered the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys.
The website was hosted by the county’s servers, which were put out of commission by the flooding, so “there was no website for anybody to go to,” County Planning and Development director Alicia Terry said last week.
A new tourism website will be launched in 2013 as part of Schoharie County’s multipronged plan to re-energize its flood-stunted tourism promotion program.
The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors is appropriating more than $191,000 for tourism in 2013, including matching funds for the state’s I Love NY promotions and a $25,000 pot of grants that is being offered to support festivals and events.
Despite the flooding in 2011, the county’s 4-percent occupancy tax on lodging bills depicts a stable trend in collections, some of which can be attributed to flood victims and others renting rooms in the wake of the disasters.
Much like strong sales tax revenue was driven by the purchase of rebuilding materials in 2011 and 2012, county Planning and Development Director Alicia Terry said rooms were filled during the months that followed the disaster.
Not long after the county instituted its bed tax, a total of $126,000 was collected, most of which is used to promote the county’s tourism offerings.
The fund grew to collecting roughly $151,000 in 2011 and the most-recent tally for this year shows collections at $104,469, putting it on track to meet or exceed the $120,000 projected.
“We did fairly well,” Terry said.
Rooms were booked not only by flood victims but by government, utility and other workers in the months following tropical storms Irene and Lee, Terry said.
Favorable bed tax collection in 2011 could be seen as a surprise because the county’s tourism website, www.upstatevacations.com, was hosted on the county’s server back then.
It needed an update anyway, and plans will include backups so potential tourists downstate and beyond don’t find nothing when they seek Schoharie County info on the Internet.
“We’ve long known that we needed to upgrade our Web presence,” Terry said.
The new website will be more user-friendly and make it easier for tourists to search specific attractions and activities.
The county tourism program allotted $25,000 last year in small tourism grants to support events, including the Schoharie County Maple Festival, the county Historical Society’s history fair at the Old Stone Fort, festivals and the garden party in Sharon Springs and the Schoharie and Middleburgh 300th anniversary celebrations.
Another $25,000 in grants is being made available for 2013; a deadline of Feb. 22 is set for applications.
Information on the grants can be found under “Public Announcements” at this link.