LAKE PLACID — Internet sites trump, by far, traditional media advertising in attracting visitors to Essex County.
That’s the conclusion of the Essex County Leisure Travel Study just released by the Lake Placid-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST).
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“We’ve done it for 10 years,” ROOST President James McKenna said of the study. “We have a third party come in and do an evaluation.”
In this case, the third party is PlaceMaking of Plattsburgh, the firm that’s done the study for the past two years.
The results are used to determine how ROOST spends the money it gets from Essex County’s 3 percent occupancy tax, which was $1.69 million in 2012.
McKenna said they had 101,998 new contacts in 2012, the year covered by the study.
“We call those trackable leads,” he said. “We can only respond to the names we have. The company (PlaceMaking) picks 30 percent and contacts them.
“We got over 4,000 responses, and they compiled the results.”
McKenna said the study showed visitors to Essex County preferred hotel accommodations to other types such as camping, and were outdoors oriented, with hiking the No. 1 reason for visiting.
The average age was 51, the average party size, four, and 50 percent were from New York state, chiefly the Albany or New York City metro areas.
In addition, 82 percent of those who contacted them actually visited, McKenna said, based on the survey results.
Social media like Facebook and Twitter are also attracting more visitors, and the average age of those respondents is 46.
“That’s a growing area,” McKenna said.
McKenna said the survey showed 91 percent of all Essex County visitors got their information online.
“Traditional advertising is not what it used to be,” he said.
According to the report, the average visitor stay was 4.9 nights. That’s a big increase from the 2011 reported average visit duration of 2.8 nights and slightly higher than the five-year average of four nights.
The average visitor party spent $326 a day, McKenna said, and the per trip average was $1,597.
“This allows us to derive a clear profile of our visitor demographics and map the evolution of visitor interests,” he said.
“The high rate of response to the survey and consistent return on investment underscores the correlation between our marketing strategy and the resulting economic impact to the region.”
That impact is that for every $1 ROOST shells out on marketing, visitors spent $82, the study says. The total spent by tourists in Essex County in 2012 was $138 million.
“That’s a positive indicator of an improved market,” McKenna said.
The total number of visitors influenced by ROOST to come to Essex County in 2012 was 342,458, which is about $4.95 a person marketing cost, based on the study.
The number of ROOST-influenced tourists was about a 1 percent increase over the previous year.
ROOST Director of Communications Kimberly Rielly said by email that the survey of social-media usage was very valuable.
“As a communications professional, it is important for me to obtain the social-media survey results from this process,” she said via email.
“This data shows that the social-media respondents include a higher instance of people who have never been here before, as opposed to traditional advertising respondents.
“This means that we are gaining exposure to new, like-minded potential visitors, and supports the importance of social media in our overall marketing mix.”
Rielly said the travel industry has had challenges in tracking the benefits of social-media efforts, but trends show that validation doesn’t come from traditional media, but from their customers — the visitors.
“We are all more likely to listen to our friends’ referrals, after all.”
McKenna said he’s often been asked if Essex County could host an event like the Americade, the motorcycle rally held in Lake George every June.
“You need a lot more rooms than we have,” he said. “Warren County has 15,000 rooms available. Essex County has 2,200 rooms countywide.”
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