There continues to be disagreement over the direction of tourism in Warren County, with some saying the golden goose has fleas.
Warren County officials contend increased bed tax revenues and a recent report showing hotel demand up nearly 2 percent through April bodes well for the year ahead.
But some hotel owners are skeptical, saying the increase in bed tax revenue is due to hotels raising rates and some new hotels in the market that have many smaller operations struggling.
It has been an ongoing debate for several years.
But we wonder if they are having the right discussion.
Instead of worrying about the direction of tourism and whether enough promotion or advertising is being done, perhaps the debate should be about the regional tourism product.
For instance, we believe the most annoying problem facing anyone who visits Lake George is parking.
If business owners in Lake George want to improve the experience for visitors, fix the summer parking problem.
That could mean building a parking garage, acquiring more land for parking lots not far from downtown, or implementing some sort of free loop mass transit system — we’re reminded of the one in Key West — to make it easy and comfortable for visitors to get from one end of town to another.
That could lead to more pedestrian-only zones in the village and the inevitable expansion of the main business district both north and south. That increases business opportunities, things to do, restaurants to choose from, and ultimately, brings more tourists north.
The second most annoying problem with Lake George — except on fireworks nights when it is the most annoying problem — is traffic
What about setting up parking in the Municipal Center parking lot on fireworks nights and sending shuttle buses every five minutes into the village and back again?
Once you’ve established the loop bus system and promoted the heck out of it, add regular runs to Bolton Landing, Glens Falls and Great Escape, building on the trolley system currently in place and expanding the tourism experience further.
Tourists would be urged to leave their cars behind as often as possible.
We know we are thinking out of the box, and it will take a lot of selling to convince independent American tourists to park the car and relax, but it sure seemed to be working in Key West, where there is almost no downtown parking.
Bed tax money should not just be used for promotion, it should ultimately be used for anything that makes the tourism experience better.
We believe that should be the focus now.
Bed tax funds could be used to acquire more parking lots or fund an ongoing summer mass transit system.
Or maybe establishing water taxis from the village to local restaurants along Route 9N as far north as Bolton Landing, giving tourists another opportunity to experience the lake in all its glory on a beautiful summer evening.
What we like about these ideas is that they create some jobs as well.
If tourism is going to be our most important industry, it needs to be evaluated, reviewed and reinvented continually.
Let’s start there, then promote it.