Warren County heats up in tourism debate

Published on : Wednesday, August 2, 2017

tourism debateA series of “insulting” emails to Warren County tourism leaders about the direction of the county’s tourism promotion efforts prompted some ugly exchanges on Monday after a town supervisor pointed out growing revenue trends.

Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors Tourism Committee, released a breakdown of tax receipts showing a 28 percent increase in bed tax receipts and 19 percent growth in sales tax over the past 7 years, while the county Tourism Department budget has grown by about 7 percent over the same period.

Merlino said that growing tax receipts based on lodging and sales show that revenue to businesses has clearly grown. Merlino prepared the breakdown amid a debate among county supervisors and local private sector tourism leaders over how well tourism has been in the county.

“I get tired of seeing these emails, ‘The sky is falling,’ “he said at Monday’s Tourism Committee meeting. “I just can’t take ‘The sky is falling’ anymore.”

Merlino termed some of the email criticism as “insulting” and “garbage.” He would not say who they were from, but said they came from business owners and some in the public sector.

Salim Amersi, owner of The Surfside Resort in the village of Lake George, said his occupancy rates have not risen above 66 percent at his business despite a $10 million investment to overhaul 50 rooms.

Kevin Markham, general manager of the Ramada Inn in Queensbury, said the challenge is building year-round occupancy. He said many raised rates because lodgers in the Saratoga Springs area did, and occupancy has not risen in recent years.

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