Small towns in Adirondacks fight over tourism money

In case you missed it there is yet another dust-up underway in the Adirondacks over how and where to spend the dollars that market our region to potential tourists.

We’ve reported before that the Adirondacks lags well behind in terms of creating a recognizable brand in them minds of potential visitors.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that he wants far more New York City and downstate travelers to choose the vacation opportunities we offer in the North Country, rather than head east to New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont.

But the truth is that studies have shown that a lot of New Yorkers don’t even know we exist.  And to the extent that they do, they don’t think we’re as cool or have as much cachet as our New England neighbors.

Which is why it’s so frustrating that Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake are fuming over a tiny $25,000 request, made by Saranac Lake village representatives to help market their community’s tourism assets.  They want the dollars to come from Franklin County.

Saranac Lake wants to partner with ROOST, the Lake Placid-based tourism operation.  But that marketing program is run by Essex County.

Tupper Lake, meanwhile, feels cheated and left out and wants an equal slice of any tourism marketing pie.

You see where this is going?

While New Hampshire and Vermont find ways to pool their money and messaging power — thereby creating ad campaigns that actually have the heft and creativity to spark some kind of response — Adirondackers work village by village.

The reason for this balkanization is pretty simple:  We are, in fact, balkanized, with no central governing organization to shape how and where dollars are spent.

That kind of effort would take political heft, enough to resist bending to local, parochial interests.  But efforts to create that kind of organization have faltered.

After all, why would folks in Warren County want visitors to spend time on the Thousand Islands?  Why would development officials in Lake Placid want to boost visitorship in Hamilton County?

The answer, of course, is that the region as a whole has the assets and the resources to become a major destination, while no single county or community can possibly compete at that level.

If we marketed the region as a whole, in a coherent, deliberate and persistent way, we would almost certainly see a net increase in visitors that would give everyone more opportunities to build their local tourism economies.

Instead, we continue try to go it alone.  Maybe Saranac Lake will get its money.  They will spend some tens of thousands of dollars — the goal is to pool $85,000 — over some limited period of time to boost the local brand.

Meanwhile, our neighbors to the East continue to boost their entire tourism industry, with Vermont along spending $5 million every year on tourism marketing even during the depths of the economic downturn – with many of those dollars aimed at “our” visitors in New York.

It’s hard to say what the solution here might be.  Maybe there is none.  Perhaps our competitors will continue to grow and market themselves as 21st century destinations, with sophisticated branding, while we remain a kind of cool, funky, undiscovered Wild West.

But maybe some day we’ll find a way to make the Adirondack-North Country into a unified, recognizable destination, where the incredible assets of all our unique villages, resorts, and natural wonders add up to something greater and more appealing than any one community could provide.

I’ve said before:  In the years before I moved here, I was a West Coaster and had no idea what the Adirondacks were.  But I knew New Hampshire and Vermont — and I wanted to visit them some day.

Until we create the same collective appeal for our beautiful corner of the world, I suspect we’ll be missing out on visitors, dollars and opportunity.





64 Comments on “Small towns in Adirondacks fight over tourism money”

  1. John Warren says:

    A response to this post by Kimberly Rielly (director of communications for the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau / Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism) was run this morning at Adirondack Almanack:

  2. Walker says:

    “Obamacare looks like it may close me down…”

    Try to think of it as creative destruction.

    “The only way to fix SS is to reduce payout or create a lot more workers.”

    Uh, there’s also raising the cap.

  3. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Uh read my post Walker, I mentioned that. Raising the cap will not produce enough revenue to fix the problem any more than taking all the wealth from the richest 1% or 10% or 20% will fix the deficit.

    Creative destruction? Yeah, 3 more people on welfare. That qualifies as destructive all right.

  4. Walker says:

    Arlo, you may have mentioned it, and you may believe that it will not produce enough revenue, but that don’t make it so.

    It would generate $1.4 trillion in revenue over the next 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office.

  5. Walker says:

    And when those three soon-to-be-welfare cases actually go on welfare, be sure to let us know. (I won’t hold my breath.)

  6. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    According to the Congressional Research Service it’s more like $500-600 billion. Not an insignificant amount, but not $1.4 trillion either.

    More importantly, it’s not going to fix the problem in the long run. We’re going to have to go to means testing which means some people are going to be paying in and getting nothing eventually. That just makes SS a virtual entitlement type program, although I don’t like to think of SS as an entitlement. Better to put it that SS will simply become another tax on top of other taxes on the upper middle class. It sucks.

  7. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    BTW, did you want to tell me that taxing the top 1 or 10 or 20% will solve our deficit issues too? It won’t. Spending is the problem.

  8. Walker says:

    Sure, but what spending?

    How about we look at military spending? Corporate subsidies? There’s way more spending going on than the social welfare spending “conservatives” are so fond of attacking.

  9. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Fine, we got to that in another thread. But on SS, the problem is a $22 trillion unfunded obligation. Even with your numbers of $1.4 over 10 years we still have a big, big problem. That doesn’t even begin to touch Medicare or any of our other programs. I think it’s going to have to go to means testing across the board, raising the age, removing caps and lowering services. The other alternative is to keep borrowing and devaluing our currency. I think that’s probably the course that will be taken.

  10. Walker says:

    “…we got to that in another thread.”

    Yes. Over and over we get the claim that what we have is a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Well, I’m going to keep talking about where those cuts should come from.

    And that “$22 trillion unfunded obligation” exists only over a 75 year timeline.

    “The most recent trustees report shows that with no changes whatsoever — if Congress were never to act, which is completely unlikely — Social Security could continue to pay benefits in full and on time for the next 27 years. After that, if Congress took no action whatsoever, it could still pay three-quarters of the expected benefits forever. That’s not good enough, of course, we want 100%. But there is a lot they could do and even very modest things would make a huge difference.” (The Street: 7 Ways to Make Social Security Solvent)

    They go on to suggest that restoring the estate tax would take care of the longer-term deficit, or we could apply the one-half percent transaction tax on trading. I have no illusion that most Republicans would welcome such proposals, but they make sense to me.

  11. The Original Larry says:

    The discussion of myth and folklore is actually taking place in another thread.

  12. Walker says:

    Call it what you like, Larry, but try to make it substantive.

  13. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    The figures I saw were for the period ending in 2061 IIRC. The problem with both our figures is they rely on nothing changing. Whether it’s 50 years or 75 or 2037 doesn’t matter really. The problem is that we have less workers compared to SS recipients and that trend appears to be growing steadily. The 1980’s fix hasn’t held. If you wish to believe that SS is solvent forever no matter what, fine, but you ignore the odds that things will change for the worse as far as revenue vs pay out. That has been the tend since the 60’s IIRC. You can’t fix it without changing it quite a bit.

    Is the deficit you are referring to fixing with the estate tax money the SS deficit or Federal deficit?

  14. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Okay, my bad, I re-read it.

    I have a problem with the estate tax. IMO that is an entirely regressive, unfair, horrible tax. I don’t care how rich someone is, they already paid taxes on their earnings and investments. It’s no more than grave robbing to allow the gov’t to take up to 55% of the estate. A million dollar estate isn’t a big deal anymore. So you work all your life to build something, pay taxes all along, you have an estate worth say $2 million and the gov’t gets $1.1 mill of that because you die? Sorry, that’s just wrong IMO. And then on top of that, as I understand it, your heirs have to pay income tax on that $900K they got! Come on, we can do better. Go with that trading tax or something, or better, cut spending across the board.

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