ALTMAR – Nearly 90 Oswego County business owners, elected officials and community leaders left a recent tourism ambassador program at the Tailwater Lodge with increased awareness, enthusiasm and excitement about Oswego County and its tourism industry.
“This was by far the best conference/workshop I have attended in decades. The networking alone made the day worthwhile,” said one guest.
Another commented, “It was nice to hear some voices that are optimistic on the region’s resources and development.”
Sponsored by the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning, the Tailwater Lodge, and area tourism leaders, the May 4 workshop provided an overview of Oswego County’s travel industry, its economic impact, the types of activities that visitors are looking for, trends in social media, and communication and customer service skills to improve the visitor’s experience.
“Oswego County is a year-round international fishing destination, and we have many other unique attractions that people enjoy,” said David Turner, director of the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism, and Planning. “The tourism ambassador program was designed to give our stakeholders a broader understanding of tourism in our community, its unique characteristics, and potential for future growth.”
Guests learned that:
– Visitors spent $122.7 million in Oswego County in 2013, according to the state Department of Economic Development
– Tourism generated 2,600 jobs in Oswego County in 2013
– The top three destinations in Oswego County are the Salmon River, Oswego Harborfest, and Fort Ontario
– Lake Ontario charter boats each have an annual impact of more than $70,000 in Oswego County
– Oswego County sells more non-resident fishing licenses than any other county in New York State, and more than all other Lake Ontario counties combined
– Winona Forest Recreation Area, located in northern Oswego and southern Jefferson counties, offers year-round recreation on more than 9,000 acres of state forest land. Popular activities include sled dog training, fat bike races, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, running, and mountain biking.
– 97 percent of all consumers search for local businesses online, and businesses and attractions must have mobile-friendly websites in order to stay competitive
– The Oswego County iMap contains more than 400 locations to help visitors create itineraries and plan their trips
– Lighthouse tourism is expanding nationwide. With plans to restore the West Pierhead Lighthouse in Oswego progressing, lighthouse tourists from all over the world are expected to visit Oswego County
– The Lake Ontario CNY Lighthouse Challenge, June 20 and 21, is expanded this year with seven lighthouses participating
Tailwater hosts Robert Bijesse and Christine Tucciarone provided tours of the hotel and conference center which is located in the former Altmar Elementary School.
Chris Jones, Cre8 Studios, developed the presentation graphics and served as master of ceremonies.
Presenters were Dave Turner, Kara Alheim, and Janet Clerkin, Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning; Mary Shadduck, Winona Forest Recreation Association; Mercedes Niess, H. Lee White Maritime Museum; Abe Ellis, Selkirk Lighthouse and Marina; and Lynn “Spike” Herzig of the Herzig Group. Lunch was provided by the Tailwater and the county Tourism Office.
Following the program at the Tailwater, Steve York hosted a networking session at the newly-restored Kallet Theater in Pulaski.
Free shuttle transportation from Oswego was provided by Jennifer Mays of Oswego Expeditions.
Many of those who attended the event provided enthusiastic feedback and said in a follow-up survey that they would like to see more frequent tourism ambassador training programs.
“(The) speakers were very well prepared, informative and engaging,” commented one guest.
“Attending group functions like Monday’s is a great way to get to know others and share ideas,” said another. “I think continuing the path Tourism is on is a good way to promote Oswego County.”
“I thank you for making my dream come true,” said another guest. “We all work well together and that’s what it’s all about.”