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Room for growth at Adirondacks USA tourism summit

November 6, 2014
Editorial , Lake Placid News

A lot has changed since 1997, when the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council launched its first Conference on Adirondack Tourism in Lake Placid, yet the need for community leaders to get together and plan their tourism strategies remains constant.

While the Tourism Council's annual get-together is no longer held, the Lake Placid-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism/Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau has created the next best thing. On Oct. 24, it hosted the first-ever Adirondack Destination Summit at the Lake Placid Conference Center. We hope to see a similar summit in 2015, and we'd like to see it expanded to include the entire Adirondack Park, as we saw during the years of the Conference on Adirondack Tourism.

After all, if ROOST is going to work with its growing clientele of Adirondack communities to push the Adirondack brand as "Adirondacks USA," the conversation should include all Adirondack communities. This is not a criticism, just an observation and a recommendation.

"It's really all of us in this together," ROOST President/CEO Jim McKenna said in his opening remarks at the summit. "The big brand we have is 'Adirondack.' That's why, if we can work together and look at our different destinations as one unit, I think we'll be much more competitive in the marketplace. But to get there, there are certainly some things that we have to do."

The tourism summit was a work session rather than a conference with guest speakers on special topics. Both kinds of events are valuable for their networking opportunities; however, we like a work-session format better because it focuses on communities taking an active role in the marketing process as a single unit.

The brainchild of Indian Lake community leader Brenda Valentine, the summit was a chance for ROOST to "start building more momentum toward destination success," McKenna said. "Destination success. It's globally an Adirondack brand, but it's also our individual communities or regions that we are working with."

ROOST, formerly known as the Essex County Visitors Bureau, is no longer just focusing on Lake Placid and Essex County. It is working with more communities than ever, 33 towns, villages or hamlets in 13 subregions of the Adirondack Park: Central Lake Champlain Valley (towns of Willsboro, Westport, Chesterfield and Essex); High Peaks Region (towns of Keene, Elizabethtown and Lewis); town of Indian Lake, including the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake; town of Inlet; village of Lake Placid, including the town of North Elba; town of Long Lake, including the hamlet of Raquette Lake; towns of Minerva, Newcomb and North Hudson; village of Saranac Lake, including the town of Harrietstown; town of Schroon Lake; town and village of Tupper Lake and town of Piercefield; Southeast Adirondacks (towns of Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Moriah, Hague and Putnam, including the village of Port Henry); village of Speculator, including the town of Lake Pleasant; and the Whiteface Region (towns of Wilmington and Jay).

More than 60 people representing these communities attended the summit, collectively representing the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park.

McKenna, with the help of tourism consultant Joe Lathrop, who spoke at the Tourism Council's 1997 conference, gave an overview of the destination master plan process that ROOST is developing for its clients. It currently has marketing contracts with the two counties entirely inside the Adirondack Park boundary, Essex and Hamilton; the village of Lake Placid and town of North Elba; the village of Saranac Lake and town of Harrietstown; and the town and village of Tupper Lake and town of Piercefield.

"Working on tourism together, I don't think there's ever been a list like this before," McKenna said. "When you look at it, we're all under that Adirondack brand. ... Look at all these great minds. How can we not be successful?"

While the ROOST family makes up a major chunk of the Adirondack Park, there are some towns with resort communities that could be added to future destination planning summits.

Missing from the mix are: all of Herkimer County inside the Adirondack Park, including the hamlet of Old Forge; all of Warren County inside the Park, except the town of Hague, including the resort communities of North Creek, Bolton Landing and Lake George; all of St. Lawrence County inside the Park, except the town of Piercefield; all of Franklin County inside the Park, except the town of Harrietstown; all of Clinton County inside the Park; and all of Fulton County inside the Park, including the village of Northville. The town of Putnam in Washington County is represented by the Southeast Adirondacks subregion, but the towns of Dresden and Fort Ann are not. There are also tiny chunks of Lewis (five towns), Saratoga (four towns) and Oneida (one town) counties inside the Blue Line that are not part of the ROOST family.

In all fairness, even if other communities want to contract with ROOST for marketing, ROOST employees have a big enough workload with their existing contracts. Any more and ROOST would have to expand its workforce again, just as it did after signing Hamilton County, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake to its roster, according to McKenna. But communities would have to approach ROOST if they are interested; ROOST is not actively seeking more marketing partners.

Still, inviting other major players - such as the Town of Webb Visitor Information Center in Old Forge, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, Warren County Tourism and the various chambers of commerce in Warren County - to a tourism summit would benefit all the communities in the Adirondack Park, whether they contract with ROOST or not. While having special guests give informational talks at a tourism "conference" is beneficial, having a work session at a "summit" seems to be more productive. For this, we commend ROOST for getting its partners together in a format that is sure to show lasting results.

Kudos to McKenna and his staff. We hope to see a bigger Adirondack tourism summit in 2015.



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