Local fall economy positive

 & Keith Lobdell

Tourism dollars fall into Granville 

Despite a struggling national economy, local business owners are seeing positive signs in Granville this fall, thanks to a steady flow of tourism dollars.

Stephen Lynch, owner-operator of the Sheldon Manson in Granville, said the economic downturn has been felt by everyone in the hospitality industry, but conditions have improved during recent months.

“I am delighted to say that despite the national economy, business has continued to grow at the Sheldon Mansion, An Historic Inn. We are fortunate to have a very special B&B that stands out from the typical accommodations,” Lynch said.

As president of the Adirondack Bed & Breakfast Association and a director of the Washington County Tourism Association, Lynch has some perspective on not just his business but those in the area.  “Obviously, people ultimately need some form of respite from everyday stress,” he said.

The problem, according to Lynch, is not getting tourists to come back but to get them to try the area for the first time, something he said can be solved with an investment in advertising.

“Vermont has proven that a strong marketing approach can build a stable tourism industry that can be sustained, even in tough economic times. I would hope that the local, county, and state governments would also recognize that promoting tourism provides a solid return on the investment that ultimately can reduce the overall tax burden,” Lynch said.

Although the leaf peeping season has barely begun in the area, Mickey Shaw said the traffic at the Station House Bed & Breakfast she runs with her husband, Wayne, indicates it will be a good year.

“We have quite a few ‘be-backers,’” Shaw said. “Discerning travelers are apparently pleased with the affordable luxury we offer. It is clear from many repeat guests that once someone has found us, they will return.

“We’ve already had a good year,” she added. Shaw said the next five weeks have the Station House B&B near capacity for those weekends.

“It is going to be a lot busier than last season for me,” said Peter Flynn of the Panorama Hotel in Hampton. “It looks like people are much happier to be traveling.”
“I think that the fall season is very important for us here,” said Marge Mohn with the Washington County Tourism Association. “The fall season is one of our biggest times. We are a county that is very scenic, and when the leaves change there are all kinds of colors and the countryside just lights up.”

Economic worries seem to have either kept people closer to home or frequenting more domestic locales for their free time. At this time last year, Shaw said, business did not dip and at least remained strong if not moving up just a bit.

With clientele coming from all corners of the globe and finding the inn largely through word of mouth, Shaw said, more customers seem to be coming from the immediate area. “I think people are staying closer to home,” Shaw said.

“There have been significant changes in demographics, with an increase of guests from areas within a comfortable drive such as New York, Boston and Montreal. A stronger Euro has also resulted in increased European travelers. We have had visitors from over 30 countries,” Lynch said.

Guests at the B&B means patrons at other local businesses, Shaw said. Leaf peepers go to restaurants and visit area attractions when not checking out the foliage.

 “People are always looking for something else local they can do,” Shaw said.

Just one of those local attractions rests just off of Route 22 in Middle Granville.

At Hick’s Orchard daytime traffic tends to follow the weather, workers said, with sunny, warm days bringing out plenty of people.

Tracey Stahl said she expected to check in about 50 groups on Thursday after what she said she was sure was a slow cloudy and damp day prior.

“And then it’s just crazy here on the weekends,” she said. 

Daytime pickers Andrew Collier and Cristina Menditto said they came to Granville to pick apples on a shared day off from Warrensburg and Bolton Landing, respectively. There was no economic incentive here, just a fun time outside on a beautiful fall day.

“I just moved here and this is something that I always wanted to do,” Menditto said.

While the peak of the foliage season is still one-and-a-half to two weeks away, Flynn said, there are plenty of people who have enquired about staying at his lodge, which is a change from previous years.
“The way it has been is that we would get a lot of people who were driving all day and happened to find us for the night,” said Flynn. “We are getting a lot of people calling ahead this year, and we’re getting more tourists this year than we did last year.”
Mohn said that the county offers a number of lodging options.
“This is a good time of year for them,” said Mohn. “Some of the inns are very historical in nature. It is the quaintness of the inns that sets us apart.”
“We enjoy sharing our piece of the local heritage and see ourselves as ambassadors for visitors to help them find all the wonderful things in our area,” Lynch said.
Mohn said that a lot of the communities throughout the county will prepare festivals and events for the leaf-peeping season.
“They can go to the museums and we have a lot of festivals and events that are going on this time of year,” said Mohn. “There is everything here for a great day of leaf-peeping, finding a place to enjoy a lunch at a nice restaurant and places to stay for the night.”
Flynn said that he felt that part of the boom in leaf-peepers had to do with the drastic change in fuel prices over the past year.

“Last year, there were not as many people going out for a day trip when gas was hovering around $4 a gallon,” said Flynn. “This year, while it’s not ideal, as far as I am concerned, it is a lot easier to fill up the car and go out for a trip.”

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