Lake Placid hotels going ‘gangbusters’ with uptick in tourism

LAKE PLACID — Hoteliers across the country are fighting to keep their businesses open, struggling to attract travelers amid the coronavirus pandemic as bills come due. Lake Placid’s hospitality industry, however, is thriving.

Lake Placid hoteliers say travelers are coming in droves, and despite the ongoing pandemic, hotel rooms are filling up fast.

“Since we reopened on June 26, our business has been gangbusters,” Mirror Lake Inn spokesman Sandy Caligiore said. “We didn’t really know what to expect, but we’re very happy and grateful it has gone so well, especially after being closed for three months.”

Cristina Lussi, who heads sales and marketing at the Crowne Plaza Resort, said occupancy at the hotel is “remaining strong until the middle of October.”

“I was convinced that when Labor Day hit, we would die right off,” she said. “But our rooms are filled, and it’s busy.”

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged residents to stay home and signed his New York State on PAUSE order in March, directing the closure of all businesses except those deemed essential, tourism in the Adirondack region slowed to a near-nonexistent, sporadic trickle.

At that same time, Essex and Franklin County lawmakers urged visitors not to come here — and asked short-term vacation rental owners to stop accepting bookings — in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Many rental owners accepted bookings anyway, and some residents from other, more populous parts of the state chose to quarantine in the rural Adirondacks.

Lake Placid’s hospitality industry is largely run by local families who are long accustomed to seasonal business, setting the industry apart from other areas where hotels are often operated by third parties that rely on steady, year-round revenue.

David Gomlak, co-owner of TMax-n-Topo’s hostel in Lake Placid, said the stay-at-home directives came at the best time they could have. Tourism typically sags in the Adirondacks in March and April, when hiking conditions aren’t great and the weather is unpredictable.

“April is the slowest month of the year,” he said. “We generally plan on some vacations or renovations; then it picks up around Memorial Day.”

The stay-at-home recommendations stretched on for months with no end in sight. Some hotel owners chose to close their businesses to visitors altogether.

The Mirror Lake Inn, a luxury hotel that has welcomed guests to Lake Placid for more than 90 years, was among the first hotels in the area to close its doors in March.

Caligiore said the Inn has since invested $400,000 into hospital-grade cleaning. Additional safety protocols, plus employee training, were implemented in the spring, he said, and they’ve been “overwhelmingly received.”

The Crowne Plaza closed, too, according to Lussi.

Gomlak said he and his wife Terri, like many other business owners, used the opportunity to make some upgrades.

“We ended up totally renovating our kitchen,” he said. “In May, we had time to finish building the deck that we started last year.”

Hotel layoffs

Though local hotels are thriving, the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on workers in the hospitality industry.

The state’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act, requires private businesses that employ 50 or more full-time workers to alert their employees and the state Department of Labor of things like mass layoffs or closures.

Two Lake Placid hotels alerted the DOL of mass layoffs this year: the High Peaks Resort and the Crowne Plaza Resort. The High Peaks Resort reported that it planned to temporarily lay off 90 employees on March 20 because of the pandemic. Of those 90, 68 were laid off permanently on July 1, according to the business’ WARN filing. Twenty-two people were brought back to work.