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Warren County eyes tourism strategy

Looking for business

People walk along the streets of Lake George on Sept. 1 last year. Warren County offiicials plan to market the area for day-trippers.

LAKE GEORGE — Warren County officials will not be spending as much as they normally do on tourism promotion, but still plan to spend as much as a half-million dollars to attract day-trip visitors to the area.

“People will be looking for a familiar destination, one they’ve been to before and they know what to expect,” said Tourism Director Joanne Conley at the Warren County Tourism Committee meeting on Tuesday. “It would be an easy choice for them to return to the Lake George area.”

Conley said the county had budgeted $1 million from occupancy tax receipts for promotion, but is not going to spend all of that, given the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county has contracted with Working Pictures again on a video campaign. The theme will be Look to the Lake George Area, according to Conley.

The advertising campaign will stress the region’s outdoor recreation opportunities, including hiking, boating and specific attractions as they reopen.

The marketing plan includes paid social media, Google advertisements and some advertisements on broadcast television and streaming services.

Up until now, the county has not spent a lot, maybe $100,000, and has done free social media marketing.

County officials are still determining how much money to spend. Working Pictures had suggested a $250,000 advertising buy.

Conley said she does not anticipate spending much in the greater metro New York City area, but more in the Albany and maybe western New York markets.

Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said he is hearing from local businesses that they are getting more people from Massachusetts and Connecticut — places that have sent few visitors to the area previously.

“It’s an easy drive up to Lake George and you’re away from everything. You’re in a new environment,” he said.

Dickinson said he wanted to spend only half of the million dollars this year to get ready for the following year.

Mark Behan, of Behan Communications, has been volunteering his time to lead an effort among businesses to market the region. He told the committee the goal is to showcase the safety of the Lake George area.

Behan said all businesses want to make sure there is no outbreak of the coronavirus in the Lake George and Warren County region. He said research has shown people will travel and take vacations this summer, and this area is in competition with other parts of the state.

“It’s important to remind people that Lake George is here. It’s open and has taken every possible precaution to ensure the safety of visitors, the community and employees,” he said.

The goal is to mitigate what could be a 50% drop in occupancy and sales tax revenues, he added.

Johnsburg Supervisor Andrea Hogan said merchants want to take a cautious approach with the reopening.

“Everyone understands the need for us to open up and get businesses back to work, but people are not yet fully comfortable with what we’re moving forward with,” she said.

Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino, who owns a bed-and-breakfast, said he believes local merchants are ready with proper sanitization, social distancing and wearing of masks. He said he has gotten positive feedback from guests during the couple of weekends he has been open.

“They were happy to get out of the damn houses and come up where they felt safe,” he said.

Merlino also wanted to leave some money in reserve for the fall and winter.

The goal is to formulate the plan by Tuesday.

Behan said it is important to move quickly.

“I think you’re going to see television advertising and promotion in other parts of the state within the week,” he said.

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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