Tompkins County Tourism Industry Showing Signs of Recovery

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The Little House, Groton NY (David Neal and Gailanne Mackenzie)

TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY -- Tourism seems to be on the up and up in Tompkins County.

That’s the story Nick Helmholdt shared at a Tompkins County Legislature Committee meeting on July 22nd. He’s the Tourism Program Director for the County. 

"Tourism is rebounding slightly more quickly than we had anticipated," Helmholdt said. "It's still not at 2019. I don't want to make it sound like we're back to where we were pre-COVID. But it's coming in more favorably than we expected."

The County has seen a surge in revenue from the room tax, which is a strong indicator that people are visiting. The tax charges people or businesses renting out a room for less than 30 days. It added nearly $600,000 to County Coffers. That’s 20 percent above what was expected and the most in a quarter since the start of the pandemic, although the tax was increased from 3 percent to 5 percent this quarter.

Most of the County's Room Tax revenue came from Air BnB’s: 46 percent to be exact. But roughly a third of the county’s short term listings are on other platforms that don’t have a sales or room tax agreement with Tompkins County. 

Helmholdt admitted he is hoping to remedy this in the future.

The County has also made sizeable investments in to stimulate tourism throughout the year. So far, over $2.2 million in contract amendments have been given to over 20 different organizations to fund activities. Most of these organizations are Arts and Cultural Organizational Development Organizations. 

Helmholdt also said they are preparing for Community Celebration Grants in the winter, which would take place December or January at the earliest. He said these grants are for, “local events that convey our unique culture and history."

The applications are open and are due September 10th. A workshop for prospective applicants will take place on August 12th. The recommended grant awards are anticipated to be presented to the legislature in October.