Yates County Tourism promotion paying off

Gwen Chamberlain
Donna Isaacs, right, with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett at the Harrisburg Outdoor Sport Show in Pennsylvania. Isaacs was at the show representing Yates County in a regional booth. Reports are that she was doing her best to convince the governor that he needs to visit the Finger Lakes.

Tourism promotion efforts are paying solid dividends to Yates County businesses and public revenues, according to Mike Linehan, project director for the Yates County Tourism Promotion Agency, the Yates County Chamber of Commerce.

Linehan made a report to the Yates County Legislature at its March 14 meeting.

At the conclusion of his report, he said one of the goals for 2011 is to work with Finger Lakes Community College and Workforce Development to establish hospitality training for front line workers who come into contact with visitors.

Yates County gave the Chamber of Commerce $84,000 in 2010 to promote the county.

Calling 2010 “an incredible year” for tourism in the area, Linehan said the number one standout of the year was the sheer amount of public relations activity that drew national attention to the area and made specific references to businesses in Yates County.

He said in 2010, there were nearly 100 national media hits from large U.S. cities like Boston, Dallas and Los Angeles, as well as European markets.

Other areas Linehan touched on included:

• Printed materials (Travel Guide, maps, brochures, etc.): He said for a few years, the demand for print materials had gone down, but last year, it was back up. While people are using digital resources, they also want a hard copy of pieces. He said for the first time since 1999, the demand for paper copies has gone up. In 2010, the office distributed 10,000 copies of the travel guide. The demand called for a reprint, he noted.

• Funding: Because TPAs all lost state funding, they were challenged to do more with less, which led to a group that is now called Team FLX, which hired Quinn & Co. Public Relations firm, which is responsible for much of the media attention.

• Travel Shows: Staff and volunteers from the chamber join other representatives from the Finger Lakes to promote the entire region at a number of travel shows.

• Return on Investment: Linehan said a recent benchmark study by Longwoods International concluded that the 2010 promotional campaign by Finger Lakes Wine Country yielded $40 in incremental visitor spending for every $1 spent on advertising, which in turn brought $3.52 in local taxes, more than double the level posted in 2008. The Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism project is an effort of four counties: Yates, Schuyler, Steuben and Chemung.

• Winery Survey: Every year the Yates County Chamber conducts a survey of wineries in the county. In 2010, reported retail wine sales totaled $17.8 million, compared to $7.6 million in 2000. He said the economic impact works out to $41.1 million to the local economy. In 2010 wineries account for 800 jobs in Yates County, compared to 440 in 2000. Wineries welcomed 570,000 visitors in 2010 compared to 240,000 in 2000. The average sale per visitor in 2010 was $30.10 compared to $20.36 in 2000.