Tourism in Schenectady County remains strong heading into winter

SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady River Track, a popular attraction that drew thousands of people downtown last year, won’t be back this season, but officials remain optimistic about winter tourism.

The track, which was in Mohawk Harbor, will not return for a second season due to the inflated initial cost demanded by the company: Flight Entertainment, according to Todd Garofano, chief executive of Discovery Schenectady, the county’s tourism arm.

“The operators were looking for a big subsidy just to offset the cost of logistics and everything related to it,” he said. “They just determined it wasn’t going to work.”

Flight Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment.

Garofano acknowledged that the 60-by-100-foot track was a popular attraction that officials hoped to bring back, but noted that Schenectady County’s tourism prospects this winter are expected to not only be successful, but lay the foundation for tourism expansion. in the next years.

He pointed to a variety of new and returning events ahead of the holiday season that are expected to draw large crowds, including the Schenectady County Historical Society and YWCA’s annual Festival of Trees which runs through December 23 and the festival of Illuminacity lights in downtown Schenectady that runs through January 14.

Chanukah on Jay will return to Jay Street Marketplace on December 18, and Wintertime Wonderland, a new attraction located in the former Kmart space in the ViaPort shopping center in Rotterdam, will be open until December 23.

“Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” which has drawn more than 100,000 people, has run through Jan. 2 at Armory Studios, and events at Proctors and Rivers Casino remain popular, Garofano said. He also pointed to the county’s various outdoor recreation offerings, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ice skating, still offered at Schenectady’s Central Park.

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“Fortunately for us, there are many other things that we are excited about,” Garofano said.

Still, concerns about the rising number of reported COVID-19 cases and the worst flu season in years are things tourism officials are paying close attention to.

Then there is the economy.

Inflation stands at 7.7% as of October, according to the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. While still high, the Consumer Price Index has actually fallen from a peak of 9.1% this year, reported in June.

A recent survey by travel research firm Longwoods International found that the number of Americans planning to spend more on vacation travel this season has fallen to 24%, from 31% in September.

The survey, which polled 1,000 adults ages 18 and older on November 28, also found that 27% of respondents plan to spend less on travel, an increase of 8% from September, when that number was 19%.

Amir Eylon, president and chief executive of Longwoods International, said the factors are rising interest rates and financial uncertainty.

“While demand for vacation travel remains strong, economic realities may reduce the amount of travelers willing to spend on their vacation travel,” Eylon said in a statement.

But the survey found more optimistic views about the future, with 91% of respondents reporting that they made travel plans in the next six months. The number of travelers switching plans due to COVID-19 concerns dropped to 33%, the lowest level since the pandemic began.

Garofano said no travel concerns have yet been felt in Schenectady County, where many hotels reported occupancy rates in line with those seen in 2019, a year before the pandemic.

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He pointed to a recent study by Smith Travel Research tracking occupancy rates as a reason to be optimistic heading into winter.

The report found that occupancy rates at local hotels increased each month last year, compared to 2021. To date, Schenectady County hotels have reported an occupancy rate of 63.4% through October, an increase 17% from the previous year when 54% of hotel rooms were full.

The average daily overnight rate 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 bodes well for the tourism industry, Garofano said.

“Everyone is holding strong. We are having an incredible year after what many of the hotels reported as a record-breaking summer,” she said. “The momentum has carried on into the fall and also into the winter. We have been lucky.”

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.

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