ITHAKA, New York. It’s no secret that Ithaca is a popular tourist destination, especially in the summer when the sun is shining, the waterfalls are rustling and everything is in bloom.
With the towns of the Finger Lakes and their respective gorges featured on many “things to do in New York State” and “best summer activities” lists, Ithaca attracts thousands of visitors each year, from Graduation Weekend through to this year’s return of the Ithaca Festival.
But like the rest of the world, Ithaca saw far fewer tourists in the summer of 2020 due to COVID-19 as people stayed at home and didn’t travel abroad or even domestically for most of the year, especially in spring and summer. summer months.
Gary Ferguson of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) said the organization was receiving constant feedback from downtown retailers and restaurants and that it quickly became apparent that tourism had regained its momentum after the summer of 2020: “The bottom line is that we there has been a pretty strong recovery in attendance since the peak of the pandemic.”
In its 2021-2027 Tourism Strategic Plan, the Tompkins County Tourism Department outlined goals and key themes to increase the time visitors spend while traveling to the area. Some of the most important goals listed are to increase the average trip length to three to four nights; increase average visitor spend by 5% (from $366 to $384); add year-round indoor and outdoor programming; and enhance cooperation between local tourism partners and businesses.
The room tax, which is the primary method of funding local travel programs, is 5% charged on every room booked at a hotel and through Airbnb. In the first quarter of 2022, $383,989 was raised, more than double the amount raised in the same period in 2021 ($167,311). Brett Bossard, chairman of the Tourism Strategic Planning Council, said the 2022 accommodation tax has not yet been expected to this extent, but it shows an increase in returning tourism.
“We benefit from a lot of different factors by being where we are,” he said. “It is relatively easy for us to travel from a number of large metropolitan areas, […] and until recently, other forms of travel, such as air travel, weren’t as attractive due to health concerns.”
The projected residence tax for all of 2022 is $2.4 million, even as the budget assumes an occupancy rate of 20% of what it was in 2019. In 2019, Tompkins County collected $2.9 million in room tax, which dropped to $1.2 million for all of 2020. year.
In its 2020 annual report, Visit Ithaca found that visitors spent $229.8 million in 2019. Similarly, $230 million was spent in 2020, although the total for 2021 has yet to be revealed.
The 2019 Visitor Profile Report from Visit Ithaca and Tompkins County Tourism found that 76%…