Saranac Lake village board commits $20k to tourism promotion

SARANAC LAKE – The village has agreed to contribute $20,000 toward a new tourism marketing partnership.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously Monday to set aside $20,000 in its 2013-14 budget for a joint tourism effort that also involves the Lake Placid-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, Franklin County, the town of Harrietstown and the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.

The resolution the board approved says ROOST will use the money to provide “expert destination marketing services to the entire Saranac Lake region.” It notes that tourism is an important component of the Saranac Lake economy, that destination marketing requires specialized expertise and that ROOST has “the expertise and technical capacity” to deliver for the area.

The village’s $20,000 will be added to $25,000 Franklin County legislators committed to the partnership in their 2013 budget and another $20,000 set aside by Harrietstown officials this year. Private contributions are also being sought to bring the total pool to roughly $85,000, the amount ROOST is reportedly seeking to direct a Saranac Lake-area tourism promotion effort.

Just what will that effort involve? ROOST CEO James McKenna said Thursday that his organization would engage in a “very dedicated effort in the cultivation and development of Saranac Lake as a tourism destination singularly and independently,” not unlike what it does with the Lake Champlain, Schroon Lake and Whiteface regions.

“We’re already working out of the (Saranac Lake chamber office at the) North Elba Town House; we have an employee over there full-time,” he said. “Our staff would have some dedicated time in developing programming specifically for the Saranac Lake region. It would be Web maintenance, social media and all those types of things; we’d have more of a dedicated effort on that. We’d sit down and put together, which we’ve only outlined at this point, a real specific marketing plan that would be implemented.”

“We’d start to create a real buzz,” McKenna said, then added jokingly, “You know the mayor there (Clyde Rabideau) is so low-key, he doesn’t create any buzz.”

McKenna noted that his board of directors hasn’t formally committed to the partnership yet. It’s expected to take it up at its meeting in February.

The tourism partnership that’s been assembled is in part a response to the chamber’s recent decision to shift its focus to a member-services organization and away from tourism and marketing. But its roots go back much further.

Harrietstown Councilman Ron Keough said past efforts to get local municipalities and the chamber on the same page for tourism promotion have fallen short. He’s optimistic this partnership will have more success.

“The key is going to be for Franklin County, the town of Harrietstown and the village of Saranac Lake to stay with it, and give it a chance to prove itself,” Keough said. “Elected boards change, priorities change, and dollar allocations in budgets shift. But if there’s a shared direction for a regional approach, with an entity such as ROOST, that can be ongoing, then that sets a track. Especially if it produces results, that will keep that direction going, pretty much regardless of who is on the boards.”

Keough said he thinks it will take one to two years to be able to determine if the tourism partnership with ROOST has been successful.

“That’s why I hope everybody will hang in there for at least two years,” Keough said. “I do think ROOST has the people with the resources, the expertise and the driving engine to make it happen. I’ve been to a couple of their board meetings, and they have a solid, good thinking board to guide this.”