Thousand Islands’ traveler spending maintains steady growth

COLLINS LANDING – Traveler spending grew in the Thousand Islands region during 2017, keeping pace with gains across New York State, despite historic high water levels that hit some businesses hard during the spring and early summer.

The Thousand Islands-Seaway Region saw a 4.2 percent increase in traveler spending in 2017 over the year before according to a report by Tourism Economics released Monday by the state. The state defines the region as Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties.

Traveler spending across the state increased 4.4 percent, reaching $67.6 billion.

According to the study, tourism in the tri-county region was a $543 million industry in 2017, contributing more than $239 million in labor income, employing nearly 9,200 and generating more than $65 million in state and local taxes.

The regional growth comes despite record-high water levels along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River that delayed openings at some tourism businesses and led to many operating a partial capacity for a portion of the season. More than 75 percent of regional businesses responding to a September survey reported negative impacts from the water, with half reporting losses greater than 20 percent.

Sales receipts across various regional tourism sectors showed the greatest year-to-year losses came in the quarters of March to May and June to August, when water levels were at their peak and impacting the busiest times of the tourism season. The hardest hit sectors were campgrounds and recreation activities, museums and historic sites and sightseeing tours. Food and beverage operations reported gains during those quarters and most sectors saw sales increase in the months of September to November and into the winter compared to 2016.

“We knew that business improved later in the summer and especially the fall once the water levels went down. While some businesses were hit very hard, others were doing OK despite what was happening,” said Gary DeYoung, Council tourism director. “The overall growth is positive to see. The region was set up for a strong 2017 aside from the water levels. Growing at around the same rate as the state average confirms that.”

Traveler spending in the region grew 4.9 percent in 2016 from the previous year, eclipsing the state average of 2.7 percent.

In the Thousand Islands-Seaway Region, Jefferson County accounted for about half of the visitor spend in 2017. Most traveler spending within the region comes from the rental and upkeep of seasonal homes and food and beverage purchases, which account for 31 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Full reports can be found at: