Report says visitor spending rose 6 percent
By Holly Crocco
The nonprofit Putnam County Visitors Bureau has redesigned its website, a move that was well received by legislators during the Sept. 14 Economic Development Committee meeting.
The updated site, at visitputnam.org, includes a calendar of events and links to restaurants, hotels, museums, art studios, landmarks, performance venues, retail shops and outdoor attractions.
Businesses who are not included can submit a narrative, photos and video for the site to visi[email protected], said Tourism Director Bruce Conklin.
The site also includes a 30-second commercial that airs outside the county, as well as information about the Putnam County Television and Film Commission and links to the bureau’s sites at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.
“The previous website did not allow for the dynamic nature of the tourism industry,” Conklin said. He added that the material posted so far “is a small fraction of what can be done to highlight the great aspects of Putnam.”
The county contracted with Saffire, a design company based in Austin, Texas, that responded to a request for proposals earlier this year. (Conklin did not reply to an email asking about the cost of the redesign.)
The bureau is also working to update its printed visitors’ packet. Conklin has contracted with a photography service which is taking shots around the county. He said he also has plans to beef up digital advertising and promotion.
Conklin noted that the county saw a 6 percent increase in tourism spending in 2016, according to a report by Tourism Economics. From 2014 to 2015, the increase was 3.1 percent.
Bill Gouldman (R-Putnam Valley) called that “great news” but noted that many people come to Putnam to enjoy the outdoors, such as hiking Breakneck, which doesn’t necessarily translate to spending money.
“You have different levels,” Conklin replied. “Anyone who comes across the county line and spends $1” provides $1 more than was here, he said. “Six percent is a significant jump. We broke the $16 million mark.”
The report calculated that the increase translated into more than 100 new jobs in tourism-related fields and an estimated savings per household of $228 due to sales tax revenue collected from visitors.
“We are very proud of the job you have done,” Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson) told Conklin. The website “is a terrific, terrific resource.”
Barbara Scuccimarra (R-Philipstown) also praised the bureau and its seven-member volunteer board. “They’re amazing,” she said. “Each one of them brings so much to the table.”
“I’m very happy that I came into a professional board that offers me so many different resources,” Conklin said.
The mood was far less tense than at a meeting of the committee in March, when board chair Barney Molloy insisted the bureau answered only to County Executive MaryEllen Odell, not the legislature, and Acting Director Frank Smith refused to answer questions about its finances “under the advice of counsel.”
Although its annual budget of about $250,000 is funded entirely by county and state grants, the Visitors’ Bureau has claimed it is not a county agency and therefore not subject to Freedom of Information Law disclosure requests about its finances. However, Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, said on Aug. 23 a deputy county attorney told him the county had decided the bureau is an agency subject to FOIL. The law department has not responded to requests from Freeman or The Current for a written ruling.