Press-Republican

October 15, 2013

Destination tourism: Adirondack collaboration

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

SARANAC LAKE — Destination-tourism marketing is ramping up with web-based interaction.

And a discussion Wednesday will look to early results.

In May, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, based in Essex County, began assisting the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce with web marketing tools designed to give Saranac Lake’s Destination Marketing Plan wings.

Village of Saranac Lake Trustee Paul Van Cott explained that the coordinated effort at SaranacLake.com is working to interconnect local business operations with the myriad of events and recreational assets found here.

The goal is to incite growth.

GLOBAL MARKETING

“Our website has become a marketing tool, and ROOST is continuing to refine that,” Van Cott explained of information gathered from website interaction.

“The ROOST program through Jim McKenna is a world-class marketing program, helping Saranac Lake become a tourism destination.

“The website puts Saranac Lake on people’s radar screen. They see that this is one of the best places in the Adirondacks to go paddling, for example, that they can come and hike the Saranac Lake Sixers (nearby mountains), or they are drawn to events that we have.

“On the website, people have the opportunity to find lodging, to talk about it with people who have visited here and to see what is going on at local businesses. We really do see the ROOST program on behalf of Saranac Lake as one of the keys to our future as a tourism destination.” 

INTERACTIVE

The focus of the gathering set for Wednesday is to look at the next steps.

“What we’re trying to do is learn that (town and county) boundaries don’t really make a difference,” McKenna said in an interview Monday.

“We’ve always worked closely with Saranac Lake,” he said of Lake Placid’s approach to destination planning.

“And it’s not a matter of advertising anymore; it’s all about communication and the interaction with potential visitors in many different ways. People today use peer review all the time, so that people can interact about a potential vacation location with others who have been there before.”

That interaction is borne out in web and online communication. 

“The emerging trend is definitely a more interactive marketing approach,” McKenna said.

“Another good thing about what is happening here is that Saranac Lake folks have put together what the industry calls a DMP (destination marketing plan), and they have moved that forward.

“Our competitors aren’t in the Adirondacks or in other towns nearby. Our competitors are other tourism destinations in the world.”

LODGING CRUCIAL

Hotel and lodging properties are a core generator of increased travel, McKenna said.

And likely hotel upgrades will be part of the discussion on Wednesday.

“The more hotel rooms and beds we have in Saranac Lake, the more people will stay,” Van Cott said.

“When more people stay here, then all the businesses can thrive.”

Two projects on the Saranac Lake Planning Board table now will deliver 150 to 200 beds to the village’s lodging mix.

“We are also going to be looking at how the proposed two new hotels can fit into this marketing plan,” Van Cott said.

Two developers with local ties gained priority support from the North Country Economic Development Council earlier this month with their plans to build and renovate lodging in Saranac Lake.

Malone developer Chris LaBarge proposes a historic-styled, five-story hotel on the Lake Flower waterfront. And Fred Roedel II, a New Hampshire-based hotel owner with longtime family connections to the region, plans to purchase and restore the Hotel Saranac.

FINANCIAL STRAINS

Van Cott said the input at Wednesday’s session comes at a critical juncture, with Franklin County and the Town of Harrietstown assessing their financial contributions for 2014.

In current spending plans, the two supply $20,000 each to match Saranac Lake’s $20,000 for destination marketing.

“The Saranac Lake Chamber hosts the SaranacLake.com website,” Van Cott said. “And the town and county funding supports destination-tourism marketing for the entire area. Much of that marketing is accomplished through the website. Franklin County does not have a bed tax, so it has fallen on the communities to fill that void.”

The interdependency is something the group hopes to bring forward for discussion at Wednesday’s meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. at Harrietstown Hall. All regional lawmakers have been invited, and the gathering is open to the public.

PADDLE SPORTS GROWING

The update includes an early look at marketing numbers from McKenna, chairman and president of ROOST.

“We have only four months of background, so this is very preliminary,” he said.

“We’re finding out paddle sports are No. 1. But it’s too preliminary to get into specifics. We’re going to do a full evaluation after the first of the year.”

The trustees and the chamber anticipate a minimum three-year collaboration with ROOST to fully establish the destination marketing plan, Van Cott said.

“We’re still establishing baseline data with website hits. In time, the data will show the benefit of this process.”

Email Kim Smith Dedam:kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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JOIN THE DISCUSSION

The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism marketing-update-and-outlook session is planned for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Harrietstown Town Hall.

Officials from the towns of Harrietstown, North Elba and St. Armand are participating, along with members of the Franklin County Tourism Advisory Committee, Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Saranac Lake Local Development Corp. and Saranac Lake Area Tourism Council.

The public may attend and weigh in with ideas or raise questions about the present and future of marketing in Saranac Lake.