Pictured, a rendition of the proposed Hideaway Bay Resort, a glamping attraction with waterfront bar/restaurant and event space. The Resort construction is set to get underway in 2022 by Adventure Sports Development & Tundo Construction.
MAYVILLE, N.Y.:— Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel recently announced that the tourism economy in Chautauqua County rebounded in 2021 with all-time record occupancy tax collections. After declines in tourism and visitation in 2020 as a result of travel-related restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 occupancy tax revenues exceeded expectations by nearly 40% with revenues exceeding budget by more than $500,000. Revenues exceeded 2019 levels, before the pandemic, by 5.4%.
When compared to New York State as a whole, in 2021, international visitation to the state was down 86% and domestic visitation dropped by 37% as compared to 2019.
“The fact that Chautauqua County experienced record visitation in 2021, as visitation across the state declined overall, is a testament to our incredible tourism offerings and outdoor recreational amenities,” said Wendel. “I applaud the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau and other tourism partners for their efforts in promoting these assets, and the tourism-related businesses and attractions for their steadfastness.”
The rebound in visitation is attributed to Chautauqua County’s diverse tourism assets and the recognized safety of our rural County’s tourism destinations. Additionally, a 2020 agreement with Airbnb to facilitate their direct collection of occupancy tax payments from each short-term rental venue, helped with overall enforcement efforts.
“2021 was a very solid year for tourism in Chautauqua County amid the uncertainty of the pandemic,” said Andrew Nixon, Executive Director of the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau.
According to county occupancy tax data and the 2021 Smith Travel Research (STR) report for Chautauqua County, hotel occupancy still lagged behind pre-pandemic levels, indicating growth in other accommodation segments such as cottages and short-term Airbnb and VRBO rentals.
“For traditional hotels, the rebound was not as good as what the lodging industry as a whole experienced,” said Nixon. “It appears that while doing better, some larger hotels still struggled with some of the effects of the pandemic and the related response.”
Three-fifths (3%) of the revenue that is generated from the County’s occupancy or “bed tax” is utilized to increase tourism, conventions, trade shows, special events, and other directly related or supporting activities. Two-fifths (2%) of the occupancy tax is utilized solely for the enhancement and protection of lakes and streams in Chautauqua County.
Coupled with allocations from the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), increased revenues have enabled the County to rebuild its occupancy tax program reserves which were depleted in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic. The Chautauqua County Department of Planning & Development, which manages the program, is moving forward with new projects and initiatives in both the lakes and waterways grant program, as well as new tourism development initiatives to be advanced by the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau and the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth.
Allocations from the occupancy tax program to various lake and waterway entities, and to tourism industry partners are expected to return to pre-pandemic funding levels in 2023.
“We are very pleased and excited to see this rebound in our tourism sector,” said Mark Geise, Deputy County Executive for Economic Development. “I applaud the hard work of our partners, as well as our staff, especially Nate Aldrich and Dave McCoy, who manage the 3% and 2% programs respectively. They have been diligent in managing these funds to ensure we are being smart with how we budget moving forward.”
Among the efforts to further boost the tourism economy, the economic development team is pursuing new initiatives to promote the craft beverage industry, promote the County as a destination for small conferences, further capitalize on outdoor recreation including cycling and trail offerings, and enhance the County’s social media and video content as it pertains to our natural and recreational offerings.
Geise also indicated that the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA) is actively working to support several tourism-related business development projects, including the Hideaway Bay Resort in Silver Creek and the White Inn in Fredonia, among others.
“Even though we’re back on track, the sky is the limit in terms of further capitalizing on our incredible four-season tourism offerings,” said Geise.