2021 ROOST visitors survey reveals a return to pre-covid numbers, for the most part
By Jamie Organski
The summer season has always reigned supreme in terms of tourism in the Adirondacks in comparison to winter, fall and spring, aka mud season. Most locals and seasoned visitors know Labor Day as the “closing of the floodgates,” when many Adirondack communities transition from crowded shops and busy streets to a type of quiet that seems almost unsettling in comparison.
That might be changing, according to shifts identified by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST), which recently released its 2021 Leisure Travel Survey results. The annual study analyzes non-business travel to Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Lake Placid, Essex and Hamilton counties.
For the first time, the percentage of travelers visiting the region during the fall months (30-percent) surpassed the percentage of summer visitors (26-percent).
The main reason for this increase may be attributed to not only the vibrant fall foliage, but that the Adirondacks is a drive-to destination for many, said Jane Hooper, ROOST communications manager.
“The Adirondacks are within a day’s drive for roughly one-quarter of the entire North American population, so for those who want a vacation but are reluctant to fly, the Adirondacks is an amazing option,” Hooper said. “In late 2021, we have the added issue of COVID – namely the loosening of travel restrictions. These factors all combined to make last fall one of the busiest that the region has experienced.”
Similar patterns in other communities
After reviewing the ROOST survey, tourism/publicity directors Adele Burnett (Town of Inlet) and Mike Farmer (Town of Webb) were initially struck by the increase in fall visitors over summer travelers, but then agreed the findings lined up with similar patterns in their communities.
“Right away, you might think there should be way more tourists in summer than fall, but I am actually not surprised these numbers are close,” Burnett said. “With so many people purchasing seasonal homes in the area, it makes sense that more people consider themselves local.”
Farmer said he believes visitors were still riding the reopening wave in the fall of 2021. The clear, mild November 2021 weather also allowed for phenomenal viewing of the region’s fall foliage.
A shift for businesses?
The question remains going forward: Will seasonal businesses need to adjust and stay open later into the fall?
In Old Forge and Inlet, that remains to be seen.
“Our business owners have dealt with staff shortages, supply limitations and uncertainty, and they make it work,” Farmer said. “Staff and operating schedules are adjusted, so that everyone has the best experience possible. For the most part, visitors accept that and appreciate those efforts. It’s nice to go to the stadium and watch your favorite MLB team perform, but imagine if they had to play a double-header every day for a month.”
Burnett said many places in the Inlet area will close following Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day. However the community has achieved a balance in order to accommodate visitors and residents while allowing local workers a chance to recuperate.