The "I Love N.Y." program, which provides funding for local marketing and promotion for 57 tourism agencies across the state, is still in limbo due to the ongoing battle to close the $9.1 billion state budget gap.
The budget, which was due on April 1, still has not been finalized, so money that local tourism agencies would receive for advertising and promotion has not, and might not, materialize.
Two of these agencies, the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, depend on that funding to place advertisements in magazines and newspapers to lure tourists - and their dollars - from outside the region to come and spend their vacations here.
The Leader-Herald/Edward J. Hunt
Marie Lade of Bolton, Ontario, Canada, sits in the Adirondack chairs at the Fulton County Visitor’s Center in Vail Mills on Thursday. Tourism agencies in Fulton and Montgomery counties have not received any funding from the state’s “I?Love N.Y.”?program and have not been able to advertise the area in out-of-region publications for the summer season. Tourism officials are still hopeful they will receive some funds in time to advertise for the fall.
However, the organizations aren't holding out too much hope of getting the state aid, or the matching funds the governments in Fulton and Montgomery counties have pledged to provide.
"We just don't know what is going to happen until the budget goes through," Fulton County chamber Vice President and Director of Tourism & Communications Terry Swierzowski said. "Until we know, we're rethinking our priorities and trying to be creative."
Swierzowski said the Fulton County chamber had applied for the funding from the Empire State Development Corporation, which oversees the "I Love N.Y." matching funds program, and originally expected $56,647 from the state and the same amount from the county.
"Ordinarily, we advertise in travel magazine or women's magazines. We do not have any money to advertise," she said.
With the fall foliage season coming up and advertising for it having to go out soon, Swierzowski said she was worried they would miss the opportunity to boost regional business.
"We're hoping for the best, but expecting the worst." she said.
The worst might be what is coming out of the budget negotiations in Albany. Assemblyman Marc W. Butler (R-Newport) said that, to his knowledge, the I Love N.Y. program's funding was included in one of the negotiated budget extenders passed to keep the state government running and that the original $12 million allocated was cut to $6.5 million, about a 46 percent cut.
Gina DaBiere-Gibbs, tourism director for the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, said her group will be ready for whatever happens.
"We have already planned for the cuts and are working around them," she said.
She said the chamber was using its website and other means to get the word out about Montgomery County.
"Businesses are doing a good job promoting themselves, also," she said.
DaBiere-Gibbs said "I Love N.Y." originally was expected to provide about $58,500 and Montgomery County would provide an equal amount for a total of $117,000.
If the 46 percent cut to the tourism budget stands, Fulton County would recieve only $26,058 from the state and Montgomery $26,910.
Whether the cuts have hurt local tourism won't be known until after the summer season, Swierzowski said. However, she was happy with the numbers of people that stopped at the Fulton Visitors Center at the intersection of Routes 29 and 30 in Vail Mills.
"We had 500 visitors in four days over the Fourth of July weekend," she said. "In all of June, to compare, we had 1,200 people stop," she said.
Swierzowski also expects the economic troubles to have an unexpectedly positive effect on the local economy. She said she believes locals, unsure about the economy or their jobs, would tend to take "staycations" and enjoy the local and regional attractions they ordinarily wouldn't patronize, cushioning the blow from any shortfalls in tourism.
Edward J. Hunt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.