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ROOST considers COVID, Main Street project for Lake Placid 2021 marketing plan

Most people walking Main Street Lake Placid were wearing face coverings when this photo was taken the evening of Tuesday, July 28, 2020. Still, there are some who do not despite state mandates amid the coronavirus pandemic and signs like this one created by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — Staff at the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism are planning their tourism marketing strategy for the Lake Placid/High Peaks Region around two major issues this year: the coronavirus pandemic and the Main Street reconstruction project.

During a virtual informational meeting on Feb. 1, ROOST CEO Jim McKenna, Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Lawrence, Marketing Director Michelle Clement and Lake Placid Regional Marketing Director Bethany Valenze detailed the 2021 marketing plan for the Lake Placid/High Peaks Region. ROOST is the destination marketing and management organization for Hamilton and Essex counties, plus the communities of Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake.

Right now, ROOST staffers are promoting winter and early spring opportunities for visitors, especially on the website, www.lakeplacid.com. Those promotions include highlighting mid-week visitation to avoid the crowds, packages, the drive-to market and travelers 65 years of age or older. New Yorkers 65 and older were some of the first people to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in the state and therefore may be willing to travel earlier than people not yet vaccinated.

“Really our focus remains our wide open spaces, outdoor activities, things people can experience to kind of break that cabin fever right now,” Clement said. “One piece that we keep leaning toward is always making sure that they can find the most important information they need to know before traveling, what the expectations are when they are visiting.”

ROOST showcases venues operated by the state Olympic Regional Development Authority and the outside attractions they offer, activities on Mirror Lake, and skiing and riding at the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington. It also offers backcountry preparedness information for those heading into the woods.

“Obviously, we will always continue to throw the wide net, looking for mid-week business, weekend business, even this time of year, through March and April,” Lawrence said, adding that ROOST is looking at which travelers would be most likely to visit the Adirondacks sooner, rather than later. “We wouldn’t only be focusing on the 65-plus market, but we would fold that in with some specific targeted marketing toward that age group.”

Main Street marketing

As the village sees the reconstruction of Main Street begin this spring, the traffic disruption will pose a challenge for residents, visitors and businesses — particularly with detours and parking. ROOST is preparing for the project, which is expected to be complete in the fall of 2023, by creating a “Perfecting Placid” message. The messaging will be accompanied by a logo with an image of the Milton the Moose cartoon figure wearing a hard hat, face mask and safety glasses, saying, “Pardon the dust; perfection in progress.”

Lawrence said there will be three touch points for the “Perfecting Placid” messaging: 1. to the traveler before they arrive, “still open for business” on Main Street; 2. coming into the main arteries of the village, with signs about detours, alternative parking and promoting businesses; and 3. on Main Street itself.

“Our hope is that it is unified messaging across everything,” Valenze said. “So any marketing that’s going out. Any communications that’s going out. Anything that the business owners or locals or ROOST, we’re all using the same messaging.”

ROOST will work with the village of Lake Placid and the Lake Placid Business Association to inform locals about Main Street updates and progress. And it will continue to promote Main Street as a tourist destination, partly by providing parking maps and road signs with a positive message.

“We really want to encourage them to still continue to explore Main Street, shop Main Street, dine Main Street. Yes, there’s construction going on, but it’s still open to the public,” Valenze said. “Everybody loves Main Street, so we want to continue that and make sure that the love for Main Street is still there through all of this ‘Perfecting Placid.'”

Spring/summer marketing

As we head into the late spring and summer months, ROOST will continue to focus on marketing outdoor activities, fresh air, wide-open spaces, and rest and relaxation. It will offer more road trip itineraries and “know before you go” travel updates, considering that New York will still be in a state of pandemic and preparing for a time when travel increases as more people get their vaccinations.

“We know going into 2021 what the successes were from 2020 and what was driving travel,” Clement said, “and as more people are vaccinated and there’s more room for movement, how we can make things much more robust again.”

During the summer of 2020, the large-scale special events were canceled, and it’s not clear what kind of restrictions the state will impose on them this summer. ROOST officials have begun talking with these event coordinators about their 2021 plans, including the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon, Summit Lacrosse tournaments, Can-Am Rugby, Lake Placid Horse Shows, Lake Placid Marathon and CAN/AM Hockey.

“We are still waiting on direction from the state before we can confirm any events,” Valenze said.

Major projects, initiatives

ROOST will continue to promote its Love Your ADK campaign, which began in 2020, providing resources on Leave No Trace principles for backcountry users. As the pandemic went into high gear last summer, a record number of travelers were visiting the Adirondack Park in search of outdoor activities, particularly in the High Peaks Wilderness. These visitors have continued their search for COVID-friendly activities in the fall and winter and are expected to return in large numbers during the spring, summer and fall. ROOST will again offer alternative hikes to divert some of the foot traffic away from the High Peaks trails.

Other projects on the ROOST agenda this year are the new Lake Placid “First Time Visitor” page on the website; Adirondack Wayfinder, an online tool for visitors to create their own thematic itineraries; a target email marketing strategy; collecting mobile tracking data from visitors; and hosting travel writers on fam (familiarization) tours.

Community projects include the new LEAF (Local Enhancement and Advancement Fund) program, which issues grants for community projects in the town of North Elba, funded by part of the county’s occupancy tax.

ROOST recently partnered with Warren County Economic Development Corporation to commission a survey to see how many people may be interested in moving to the Adirondack Park and becoming year-round residents. Camoin 310 of Saratoga Springs designed the survey and will compile the results.

ROOST will also be working on a diversity pilot program with Travel Unity — a nonprofit focused on increasing diversity in the world of travel through individual and community empowerment. The goal is to have the region’s tourism industry become more educated, knowledgeable and understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“This is about educating our staff and from there including our communities to better understand and become a more welcoming environment for people, not only for people to visit here but to move here,” Lawrence said.

Destination management

ROOST will go through a fundamental shift in its mission this year as staffers work on a destination management plan for the Adirondack regions it promotes. In its 2020 annual report, McKenna announced that ROOST will start to move from a destination marketing organization to a destination marketing and management organization.

“The destination management plan is really looking at tourism and how we do it … being conscious of people’s feelings on over-tourism, over-events, putting a plan together, a three- to five-year plan that really deals with the management of tourism so that we end up in a better spot for locals as well as visitors,” McKenna said Feb. 1.

The goal is to create a vision and a road map that will develop an overall positioning and implementation strategy for the future of the region’s tourism economy.

In order to draft a destination management plan, ROOST will be holding a series of public meetings and work with the town and village to get feedback from the community.

“It’s about quality of life for residents and quality of place for visitors,” McKenna said.