ROOST CEO Jim McKenna talks about anticipated summer tourism in the Adirondacks
Tourist destinations like the Adirondacks are hoping higher gas prices and inflation won’t depress the pandemic comeback. Lake Placid-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism President and CEO Jim McKenna recently spoke with WAMC’s Pat Bradley about the summer season and the World University Games starting in January:
This year, it's you know, year to date, we just happen to know we got some results through April last week. And we're actually running a little bit ahead overall in our numbers compared to 2021, which ended up being a record year. So as the Canadians come in, along with the pent up demand we feel is out there leftover from COVID, we think it's going to be a strong summer. Areas of concern are certainly gas. But when we look at it, a tank of gas from New York to the Adirondacks is like one tank. So people have to judge it themselves how much that's going to affect things.
What do you think is going to be the breaking point for tourists coming up to this area? Because it is an area where they have to drive.
Yeah. Not sure what that breaking point is. But what we're hearing, what the national travel research is saying right now, is that they'll lower their expenditures on dining and shopping and then lodging but they'll still take their trip. They just won't spend as much money in those other areas.
So what's that going to mean for some of the tourist communities? I mean, Lake Placid, lots of shops, and they rely on the tourists.
It could certainly have an effect and we actually have probably seen that already in talking to some retailers. We know occupancy levels were higher, but retail sales levels were lower. So we're starting to see some of that happen already. How that continues? You know, you combine the gas with the way the stock market is going right now and many people do get concerned.
Now what's happening in some of the smaller communities of the Adirondacks? Are they getting hurt by this at this point or are they still doing pretty good tourism-wise?
Well it's a little too early could tell at this point. And really the travel season doesn't go into full swing until after the schools are out near the end of June. So we'll see that as it moves on. Right now we're anticipating it's still going to be busy. The pent up demand and the metropolitan areas we have close to the Adirondacks, whether it be Utica, Syracuse's, Albany's, even the Canadian, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, we have some close in to touching all areas of the Adirondacks pretty close.
Well speaking of those Canadian cities, how important and how much of a difference will it make having the Canadian border open?
Well, it depends on where you are in the Adirondacks. Some areas are affected more. You look at Plattsburgh, you look at Lake George they stand out number one for Canadians. Areas like this part of the Adirondacks and maybe some of our more western areas, maybe usually about 10 to 12% are Canadian. Last couple of years, as we all know, 0%. So but that is still a significant number for the area. So we'll see that that should infill a lot of maybe some fallout from people concerned about their dollars.
You are also working to bring the World University Games to Lake Placid at the beginning of 2023. And amazingly, that's not that long from now.
It really isn't. And it's really the ... yes and we're still anticipating a large contingent from around the world. Certainly the Russians will not be there at this point, which have a large contingent of good athletes. But we're spreading it throughout the region. Preliminary hockey will be in Canton and Potsdam. Curling will be in Saranac Lake and some of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing will be in Gore. So it's really going to be an Adirondack wide event.
How prepared is the region at this point? What more do you need to be doing?
Well there's a separate and independent organizing committee that will ramp up over the next couple of months to 95 people and they're the ones really organizing the games. You take that organization plus the expertise of ORDA working together and we feel that all the venues will be in very good shape for the games. The hospitality part it has a footprint like an Olympic Games, meaning there's a lot of ceremonies, both opening and closing, award ceremonies. Those things are still being pulled together. But we think there'll be a lot of positive energy in the air throughout the Adirondacks.
Have the international officials been to Lake Placid recently?
They were here actually this past March. A number of them have. There's going to be what's called a Head of Delegations meeting in September where all the countries that will be participating, which right now the interest is over 50 nations, there'll be a Head of Delegations meeting here in September and that's when all the officials will be here.
Now New York state put a lot of investment in improving the Olympic facilities so that they will be ready for the World University Games. How prepared are those facilities from your perspective?
Well, if we look at the last time they were prepared for the Olympics in 1980 at this point they're better prepared for the University Games than they were for the 1980 Olympics six months out.
Obviously you have a lot of events in Lake Placid. What are some of the highlights coming up?
Well certainly there's some traditional summer events coming online. One is the I Love New York and Lake Placid horse shows which will be the last week in June 1, first week in July, followed by Ironman is another major one. And then finally the last large one to the summer will be the Summit Lacrosse tournament.
I know about the Ironman. The lacrosse that's been here for a while though even though....
Yeah it's been here going back I think close to 35 years and it's has billed itself recently as the largest summer lacrosse tournament in the Northeast.
Didn't you also used to do an international rugby competition?
Rugby that's actually headquartered in Saranac Lake and that continues to be a major event and that will be happening this year as well.
Jim McKenna is President and CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism in Lake Placid. He spoke with WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley.