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Tourism Reaches New Heights for Area with Help of ABC Creative Group Campaigns

(7/28/17 – Rome Sentinel) Oneida County’s tourism economy expanded again in 2016 with 8.8 percent growth in traveler spending, reaching a record $1.421 billion.

Traveler spending has now generated increases for seven consecutive years.

VIEW FROM ABOVE — The Turning Stone Resort Casino is shown in this aerial file photo. The resort has had a major impact on the local tourism economy, officials say, and has undergone significant expansion over the past decade. Tourism is big business in Oneida County, which showed an 8.8 percent increase in traveler spending and a record $1.421 billion in tourism revenue in 2016. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

The impact of tourism on the state’s regions and New York as a whole is calculated as part of an annual study done for Empire State Development and the Division of Travel & Tourism (I Love NY). Oneida County is part of the Central New York region.

Visitor spending across the eight Central New York counties totaled $2.2 billion last year. Oneida County represents 64 percent of the region’s travel and tourism sales. Traveler spending in the region rose 6.4 percent, representing the largest regional growth reported for the state.

“An 8.8 percent increase in visitor spending is remarkable growth across the industry sustaining jobs, sales tax receipts and household wages in Oneida County,” said Kelly Blazosky, Oneida County Tourism president. “Tourism is economic development.”

She points to several factors as reasons for last year’s gain and anticipated future growth.

“Recent investments in new lodging facilities, restaurants, expansion at the Aud [Utica Memorial Auditorium], coupled with successful regional campaigns like BrewCentralNY.com and BikeThruHistory.com will continue to position Oneida County as a rising destination and a leader in the state’s travel industry,” she said.

The county tourism promotion agency is funded mostly through a 2 percent occupant tax charged guests at hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts.

According to the study, tourism supported 19,214 direct and indirect jobs in the county in 2016, generating $810 million in household wages.

“Each and every year, Oneida County continues to build itself as a tourism powerhouse,” said County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “With major draws such as Turning Stone Resort Casino, Utica Memorial Auditorium and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, tourism dollars have energized our local economy and led to more and more development.”

And like Blazosky, the county official sees more growth on the horizon.

“With the U District proposed for downtown Utica building off the momentum of the Aud and creating a critical mass of people through the Nexus Center, American Craft Beer Museum & Innovation Center and Utica Commons Casino, we will see these numbers rise to even higher levels in the future,” he said.

Other key findings contained in the study for 2016 include:

— Travel and tourism sustains 18.5 percent of all employment in Oneida County.

— Were it not for tourism-generated state and local taxes, the average household in the region would have to pay an additional $880 to maintain the same level of government revenue.

The study, conducted by Tourism Economics, based in Philadelphia, Pa., looked at several sectors of the tourism industry including lodging, recreation, food and beverage, retail and service stations, transportation, and second homes. The Central New York region comprises Oneida, Madison, Broome, Chenango, Herkimer, Montgomery Otsego and Schoharie, counties.

The state’s overall tourism economy expanded 2.7 percent last year with traveler spending reaching a high of $65 billion. The Central New York counties captures 3 percent of the state visitor spend annually.

Oneida County

visitor spending

2016: $1,421,099,000

2015: $1,306,632,000

2014: $1,239,482,000

2013: $1,181,203,000

2012: $1,169,677,000