Genesee County Chamber of Commerce to utilize technology in expectation of tourism's comeback
The COVID-19 pandemic created varying degrees of hardship to business and industry over the past couple years, but not many sectors were hurt more than tourism.
As a result of restrictions on travel, especially the closing of the Canadian border, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce personnel have embarked on a “deep look” into the agency’s operation and reportedly are enthused over the discovery of new technology to aid in tourism’s recovery.
“The last couple of years have caused us to really take a very deep look at what we do, how we do it, and where do we go from here. Who would have ever thought (that) this strong industry of tourism would have been taken down and dismantled the way that it was,” said Tourism Marketing Director Kelly Rapone (photo at right) at Wednesday’s Genesee County Legislature Ways & Means Committee meeting via Zoom.
Rapone reported that the Chamber of Commerce seeks to expand its role into “destination management, where we’re really looking to guide the direction of the future growth of our tourism industry here.”
Data analytics that integrate information into a unique platform, she said, will help them achieve their goals.
“One of the tools that we're now able to access is called Air DNA -- and this is very timely given the change of our local legislation with our short-term rentals (a local law that will result in the county receiving bed tax funds from home and other short-term rentals),” she said. “Now with this tool, we will be able to look at all of the short-term rental data in the county going back -- providing historical data for 2019, 2020, and 2021, and it refreshes monthly.”
Rapone said the agency will be able to track the number of properties, occupancy, location and revenue, and will be able to integrate that with current short-term rental reports.
“The other really exciting data tool that we're using is now this mobile location data collection,” she said. “So, what we're able to do now using this dashboard is drop pins throughout the county and destinations for geographies. And we're now able to go in and capture mobile data -- people that are visiting those locations -- and we're able to extract where they're coming from and what their demographics are.”
She said her department will be able to retrieve this data from the past three years “so that we can really hone in on the visitor -- exactly where they're going or where they're coming from and what they're doing.”
The Chamber of Commerce also is planning to redesign its website this year, she said, something that hasn’t been done since 2016.
Other information shared by Rapone and Chamber President Erik Fix at yesterday’s meeting:
- Hotel occupancy in Genesee County for 2021 was down 24 percent compared to 2019 (considered a “normal” year), while the average daily rates were up by 10 percent. Overall revenue was down approximately 16 percent.
Rapone said the increase to the average daily rate … “largely has been driven by that Canadian border being closed to U.S. travelers crossing as well as others who would have crossed to spend tonight. So, we did see some pickup in room nights, as well as demand in terms of being able to increase room revenues. The average daily rate is really what's bringing our revenue up this year.”
- Year-end gross bed tax earnings are projected to be between $365,000 and $375,000, and the overall visitor impact is projected to be around $150 million, which is down from a more normal figure of $180 million.
- Due to a decrease in matching funds and the agency’s overall budget, the Chamber of Commerce’s participation in with tourism partners decreased. Those who did join in promotional strategies included Six Flags Darien Lake and the Genesee County Fair.
- Visitor Center traffic decreased by 42 percent compared to 2019. “We have had visitors all year long, just certainly not the volume that we're used to seeing,” Rapone said.
COMMITTEE PASSES RESOLUTIONS
The Ways & Means Committee passed two resolutions connected to the Chamber of Commerce – designating it as the county’s official tourism agency for 2022 and authorizing payment of up to $420,000 exclusively from the county’s hotel and motel tax receipts to the Chamber for publicity and tourism services this year.