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Saratoga racing season has some effect on tourism business in area

August 7, 2011
By MIKE ZUMMO , The Leader Herald

While attendance at Saratoga Race Course has been up this season, those numbers have not necessarily translated to increased business in neighboring Fulton County. One area hotel manager said August business does not increase due to the horse racing season.

According to a news release from the New York Racing Association, attendance for the first 10 days at the track was 201,400, a 1.3 increase over the first 10 races last year.

Jim Landrio, general manager of the Holiday Inn in Johnstown, said it has been several years since his hotel has seen an impact from the Saratoga racing season.

Article Photos

A sign at Sam’s Seafood and Steakhouse in Johnstown welcomes attendees at Saratoga Race Course.

The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo

"In the last five to six years, there have been five major new hotels in Saratoga," he said. "Because of the oversupply of rooms in Saratoga, this area has not seen the increase in the last couple of years."

However, Landrio said people coming from out of the area can get a break on lodging by staying in the Fulton County area if they are willing to make the drive to Saratoga, or are planning to visit some of the areas lakes.

"We do still have some people that will travel here and stay with us, but not as many as it has been in the past before the overbuilding in Saratoga," he said. "The average rate for a hotel room in Saratoga is $275 to $300 per night. When they can stay over here for a discounted room at $125 per night, we're a great bargain."

Landrio said the Holiday Inn sees most of its summer business in July before track season opens.

"Once it gets to August, kids are going back to school in some of the southern states," Landrio said. "People are changing their focus in August to putting kids in college for the first time, or sending them back to college. Travel for families isn't as prominent in August as in the month of July."

One local restaurant owner on Route 30A in Johnstown is looking to snag the drivers as they travel to and from the race course.

Sam Vahaviolos, owner of Sam's Seafood and Steakhouse, posted a sign on the restaurant's marquee inviting motorists to come in after they spend their day at the races.

"I wanted to see if we could make a good catch here and see if people would come by and see us," Vahaviolos said.

Vahaviolos, who also owns Romana's Pizzeria in the nearby plaza said business has been up a little this month from people staying in the hotels after going to either the races or the area's nearby lakes.

"Some tourists drop by and we get some additional business," he said.

Terry Swierzowski, tourism director at the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said area businesses do a good job of promoting the fact that more people are in the area during racing season.

"They also realize that many of our own residents are making the trips to Saratoga in August," she said. "They do a really good job of promoting and are very welcoming."

The chamber also promotes the area for racing season.

Swierzowski said the chamber advertises Fulton County in several Saratoga publications, including Saratoga Magazine, which she said is distributed throughout the summer in Saratoga Springs in restaurants, stores, hotels and motels. It's also distributed at events and at distribution points at the track. Fulton County brochures also can be found at the Saratoga Springs Visitors Center, she said, which makes tourists in Saratoga aware of the area.

Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at



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