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New York Tourism on the Rise

By Will Barclay

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Tourism is a big industry for New York state. According to recent state statistics, the New York tourism industry generated $59.2 billion in direct spending, which produced an estimated $7.5 billion in state and local taxes in 2013.

The number of visitors to New York increased to 218.8 million in 2013 — up by 8.8 million from the previous year. Economic studies indicate that as many as one of every 12 jobs is related to tourism. New York also added jobs in the tourism industry to create a total of 832,500 jobs. Wages paid were estimated at $17.96 billion.

All of this is good news for our localities and the state economy. Many local events fuel these numbers including local Jazz Fests, Harborfest, county fairs, and the New York State Fair. In fact, Fodor’s, a respected travel information provider, recently named the NYS Fair one of the top 10 state fairs in the nation. Last year, the 10-day event drew more than 1 million visitors.

Harborfest in Oswego attracts more than 150,000 people each year during the last weekend in July. Harborfest alone is estimated to bring in $31 million every year to the community. In addition, the Seaway Trail continues to draw in thousands of visitors to our waterways and surrounding businesses all across the shores of Oswego and Jefferson counties.

The state reinvested in its old I LOVE NY slogan in 2009. Visitors to iloveny.com can view a number of interests within various regions of the state. Historical sites are among those featured, and so are wineries, both of which can be found in Central New York. This month the state coordinated the “Path Through History” weekends. Several organizations held special events, seeking to attract more tourists. Many organizations and individuals are dedicated to preserving our rich history, which includes the Erie Canal and Fort Ontario.

The New York State Wine and Grape Foundation estimated that in 2008, 4.98 million wine-related tourist visits in New York produced wine-related tourism expenditures totaling $376.5 million. Micro-beer breweries and cider producers are attracting many visitors as well. Legislation that passed both the New York Senate and the Assembly, but has yet to be signed by the governor would streamline laws that govern the craft beer and cider industry and provide them with greater opportunities to market their products. I was pleased to support removing unnecessary restrictions in the Assembly.

In this year’s budget, we made $3.8 million available in local tourism matching grants. We also set aside $5 million for Market NY. That’s a new program that supports regionally themed, New York-focused projects. It was created last year to help promote destinations, attractions, and special events. Past Market NY projects include $198,000 for the Finger Lakes Beer Trail; $180,000 for the Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) Energy Exhibit; and $247,500 for a multi-use sports facility at the Willis Carrier Recreation Center (town of DeWitt).

While the past year showed visits to New York were up, we need to continue to bolster tourism efforts. This is one area where the state can make a meaningful difference by promoting our natural attributes, festivals, sports attractions, and fairs, as well as our agricultural industries like wineries and breweries that attract many from out of state. All of these collaborative efforts can help the local and state economies.

William (Will) A. Barclay is the Republican representative of the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact him at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us, or (315) 598-5185.

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