Marty Vanags, President of the Partnership, started the event by listing off various notable people in attendance, such as Mayor Meg Kelly, and thanking the events various tiers of sponsors, including the Adirondack Trust Company and Excelsior Springs Event Center.
During a slide show presentation, Vanags went through various aspects of Saratoga’s tourism industry, showcasing statistics like how tourism and food service jobs increase from around 9,000 throughout most of the year to upwards of above 11,000 during the late summer.
Vanags pointed out that while most people in Saratoga likely suspected as much, due to the racing season, they now had the concrete data to back up the feeling.
In the same group of jobs, a New York State Department of Labor statistic showed that from 2001 to 2018, their wages rose 89% in Saratoga county, from an average annual wage of $12,791 to $24,164. In the same time frame, the Capital Region’s accommodation and food service industry jobs rose 80%, from $12,532 to $22,613; and overall in New York State, their wages rose 69%, from $17,177 to $28,976.
Additionally, Vanags showcased a Pulse Survey of local businesses in the tourism industry. Of the 45 recipients, 47% had been in business for over 21 years, 67% said that workforce availability was their biggest challenge, followed closely by labor costs at 60%, and the draws to the area with the biggest impact on their businesses were the racecourse, SPAC, the City Center and Lake George.
After Vanags finished, he turned the remaining time over to three panelists: Dave O’Rourke, president of NYRA, Cindy Hollowood, former General Manager of the Holiday Inn in Saratoga Springs, and Daryl Leggieri, president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau.
In response to a question about the City Center, Leggieri thanked whoever thought to put the building in downtown Saratoga. He said that every time there is a major event at the center, it spreads out to the rest of downtown, helping other businesses grow.
One of Vanags’s statistics from earlier in the presentation showed that the City Center had 203 events throughout 2018, with a total of almost 175,000 guests generating $34 million.
Later in the panel, Hollowood said that recently Saratoga has become a destination for rowing, which has created a need for more rooms.
However, she said that from May to October hotels in the area are overpriced for youth sports tournaments, that people are looking for something in the $100 range and seeing rooms in the $200 range, higher during the racing season.
Additionally, she said that Airbnb has had a growing negative impact on the area, as rooms rented through the service do not supply the same taxes as hotel and the like.
She added, “in New York State, and in the city of Saratoga Springs, it is not legal to rent a room in your house or a private residence for short periods. That’s our city, and that’s every city in New York State.”
When an audience member asked about future plans for Dark Days on the racecourse, O’Rourke said that they intended to apply for essentially the same schedule as this past season, with two Dark Days per week on Monday and Tuesday.
During Vanags’s statistics, he referenced a Camoin Association statistic from 2015 that showed the racecourse generated $237 million, 2,600 jobs and that 59% of the attendees came from out of the area.
He followed up by showing that in the 2019 season, the racecourse had its fifth consecutive year with over 1 million total attendees and that the 2019 Saratoga Race Course All Sources Handle made over $700 million for the first time in its history.
For more information, visit the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership’s website at www. saratogapartnership.org.