By Francesca Krempa
Summer tourism in the Adirondacks will almost certainly look different this year, thanks to coronavirus.
Different, but not impossible.
To attract visitors and ensure a safe reopening this summer, businesses in Lake George and the southern Adirondacks are working to prioritize customer and employee health.
Now, hospitality businesses throughout the Lake George region can show their dedication to preventing the spread of coronavirus this summer by signing the official Health & Safety Pledge – a set of guidelines and practices established to safely resume hospitality, food and beverage, retail and entertainment operations in the area.
Businesses that commit to the pledge will receive an official Health & Safety Pledge badge to display both in stores and online, as well as safety marketing materials and a procurement list of supplies. Business and government leaders in Lake George and Warren County developed the pledge together.
“The main goal is to show our businesses are prepared with health and safety plans to keep our community, our employees and our guests safe,” said Michael Bittel, president of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Oh, and by the way, have a great time in our region.”
While the spread of coronavirus has remained relatively contained throughout the Lake George area, the community is aware its threat hasn’t completely subsided, especially as tourists travel in from other places.
Still, the Lake George region relies heavily on its visitors – “the Original Vacation” has attracted tourists eager for space and fresh air for more than 200 years. Tourism as a whole accounts for 15 percent of Warren County’s economy, according to Bittel. Summer is a key economic driver, as vacationers and day-trippers alike flock to the lake and its surrounding trails.
“We wanted to assure our community that our businesses are doing everything they can to exceed the CDC and the New York State guidance measures for health and safety,” Bittel said. “Then we set the standards for our guests.”
“The pledge is really the culmination of a complex process initiated in the wake of this novel coronavirus,” said Joanne Conley, tourism director for Warren County. “To ensure participation, the region established the Health and Safety Pledge as a way for businesses to show their dedication to keeping the Lake George Area a safe place to live, work and vacation.”
So far, around 60 local restaurants, attractions and retailers have promised to abide by the set of best practices the pledge outlines, which draw directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New York State Health Department, as well as major corporations within each sector of tourism. These guidelines differ from sector to sector, but largely encourage social distancing, sanitation protocols and available safety equipment, like hand sanitizer and masks, for employees.
In addition to the badge businesses earn to show their commitment to health and safety standards, they can also print out free, Adirondack-themed posters to hang up, encouraging patrons to “Wear a Mask” and “Wash Your Hands”.
“Since we believe visuals are an excellent way to reinforce confidence on our safety measures, a local graphics design firm has created wonderful posters reminding visitors to practice social distancing,” Conley said.
Businesses and employees aren’t the only ones responsible for stopping the spread. As Conley mentioned, guests, especially tourists, need to read the posters and do their part, too.
Gina Mintzer, executive director of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, explained that the program is a collective effort from everyone in the community, including visitors. Mintzer, who is now working safely back in the Lake George Chamber office, has been fielding calls from interested tourists. She’s excited for them to visit, but reminds them to do their part, too.
“We’re telling people who are calling, ‘Hey look, you’re going to need to wear a mask. You need to social distance. If you’ve been sick, stay home,’” she said. “The pledge itself is a great reminder that we all have a role to keep everyone safe.”
As New York continues its phased reopening, community assurance and collective compliance are essential for maintaining a safe, healthy momentum.
“(The pledge) really adds into the optimism of what we’re seeing with everybody reopening,” Bittel said. “Nobody wants to mess this up. Nobody wants to go backwards.”