Tourism: A major and historic part of local economy
LOCAL TOURISM: BY THE NUMBERS
26,000,000 visitors a year
36,636 tourism-related jobs
36% stay overnight
$424.2 million spent in Wayne County (2013)
$605.9 million in Pike County (2013)
3,665,306 visitors between two National Park units
HAWLEY – Tourism, a major part of our economy and way of life from Carbondale to the Lake Region to Milford, is an idea more than a century old.
Railroads in our local region brought thousands of city dwellers, refugees from the soot, grime and crime of the cities. They sought the fresh air Wayne and Pike and nearby areas had to offer. They came to stay in boarding houses, farmhouses with rooms to rent and hotels; they came to fish, hunt, picnic and relax in our small town and country ways. And many of them stayed and made this their new home.
Then Lake Wallenpaupack was created in 1926 for power generation. Roads also were improving, and inviting the increasing use of the auto. With these steps of progress came a great dream of a tourist and business boom. By no coincidence, the Hawley Chamber of Commerce was formed the same year as the lake.
The Great Depression and World War II postponed but did not stop that dream. Since the war, the region has quickly developed into a tourism economy, and remains a desired destination for many thousands of visitors annually, coming to experience what local people can too easily take for granted.
Tourism, as we shall see, brings a great many dollars into the local economy and supports local jobs, while local residents serve as the hosts, showcasing this region they call home to visitors coming to enjoy it as well.
26 million visitors
According to data released for 2018 by the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau (PMVB), 26 million visitors come to the four-county Pocono region (Wayne, Pike, Monroe and Carbon) each year. This is up 22% from 2016.
64%, 17.1 million, come for the day.
36%, 9.5 million, make overnight trips.
Of these overnight visitors, 95% come for leisure; 3% for business and 2% for a little of both.
The greatest percentage (29%) of the tourists begin their trip in New York State; 28% herald from Pennsylvania; 16% from New Jersey; 3% from Florida and 2% from Maryland.
It’s not only in the summer, although businesspeople testify that is their busiest season. According to PMVB data, frequency of visits only has a slight edge in the summer (30%), compared to fall (25%), winter (20%) and spring (25%).
Tourism in the Pocono region makes a big economic impact. The PMVB reported that more than $3.5 billion is spent annually by our visitors:
Lodging, $504.0 million
Recreation, $668.5 million
Retail, $616.0 million
Food & Beverage, $721.0 million
Transportation, $990.5 million.
Tourism in the Poconos create 36,636 jobs (37.2%); produces $1.5 billion in labor income (62.4%) and is responsible for $345.4 million in state and local taxes.
Over a third of the people employed in the Poconos are working in the tourism industry. Kelly Shannon, PR and Social Media Manager for the PMVB, noted that this makes the Pocono Mountains the most “tourism dependent” region of the 11 geographic regions in the state.
Shannon said that the Pocono Raceway alone had an economic impact of $257 million in 2013. This was equivalent, she said, to having a Super Bowl game in Northeast Pennsylvania very year.
According to the PMVB, for every additional 176 room nights generated year after year, one job is created.
Derek Bellinger, President of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce, noted that nine of the top 50 employers in Pike County at the end of 2017 were tourism or hospitality-related. Over a decade ago, in 2006, travelers spent ability $543 million, Bellinger said. By 2016, that spending increased to over $663 million.
In 2013, tourism generated $424.2 million in Wayne County, and $605.9 million in Pike County. Tourism benefited 3,127 jobs in Wayne County and 4,861 in Pike. Labor income from tourist dollars totaled $95.9 million in Wayne County and $152.9 million in Pike. (Source: Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company, visit.com)
Wages in low bracket
Statewide, the hospitality industry- which in part reflects the tourism economy- is ranked as the fifth largest, counting 6.4% of the jobs (approximately 376,000 jobs). By medium income, however, hospitality ranked at the bottom of the list of 21 industry categories in Pennsylvania at $24,500 a year.
In Wayne County, hospitality was the fifth largest (7.1%) with 1,540 jobs. In median income, hospitality was 18th, $24,600 a year and making up 7.13% of the workforce.
In Pike County, hospitality was the fourth largest (8.4%) with 2,026 jobs. In median income, hospitality was 20th, $28,100 a year and making up 8.44% of the workforce.
In the Carbondale, Lackawanna County region, hospitality was the sixth largest (6.8%) with 247 jobs. In median income, hospitality was 21st, $16,200 a year and making up 6.78% of the workforce.
In the Moscow, Lackawanna County region, hospitality was the 11th largest (4.4%) with 60 jobs. In median income, hospitality was 20th, $30,900 a year and making up 5.09% of the workforce.
Only a few testimonials to tourism’s economic vitality can be offered here.
• Janet Keen, one of the sisters who owns and runs Keen Lake Camping Cottage Resort near Waymart, explained her take on how the summer season affects her business.
Keen Lake is a family campground that offers cottages, RV and tent camping, lake activities, swimming, games, and much more.
Janet grew up in Wayne County and thinks very highly of the area as well as the individuals who call it home.
According to Keen, as much as 95 percent of Keen Lake’s business takes place during the summer/ warmer months.
Keen believes that most of the businesses in Wayne County work together to provide a unique and enlightening experience for those who visit the area during the summer.
She cited the example of The Cooperage Project in Honesdale which is incredibly active in their attempts to bring to bring the community together.
Keen said she believes that the people and business owners of Wayne County come together each year and work towards providing a one of a kind, memorable experience for others.
• Genevieve Reese, owner and general manager of The French Manor, also says that most of the Manor’s business is made throughout the summer season.
The French Manor, which has been operating as a restaurant, inn, and spa since 1990 by the Reese family is tucked in the woods of South Sterling at 50 Huntington Drive.
Reese also said that a great deal of the businesses in the South Sterling area rely largely on the summer months to make their money.
As a local resident, Reese said that The French Manor is just one of the many local businesses that strive during the warmer weather months.
• Woodloch Resort is an award-winning, all inclusive family resort located at 731 Welcome Lake Road, east of Hawley.
The resort, which has been owned and operated by the Kiesendahl family since 1958 offers (year round) activity programs, nightly entertainment, championship gold courses, spas, restaurants, swimming, boating, sports, and more.
Although Woodloch receives guests from around the world, year round, a great deal of their business is made during the summer (between Memorial Day and Labor Day). Woodloch is the largest private employer in the Wayne and Pike county area.
According to Woodloch’s marketing director, Rory O’Fee, Woodloch, on a macro level, is a one-stop shop for NEPA tourism.
Woodloch Resort is a huge supporter of local and regional tourism and O’Fee states that the summer season is largely responsible for the success of many local business.
O’Fee stated that as traffic increases in the area, so does the amount of guests at businesses like The Boat House, which is owned by Woodloch.
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Woodloch manages to stay busy throughout the fall season each year and often times fills up around the holidays.
Most of the guests who visit the resort are tourists from outside New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, however, guests from all over the world have visited the resort.
Despite the rise in occupancy during the summer season, O’Fee said that Woodloch averages 78 percent occupancy, year round.
Woodloch is one of several resorts in the area.
The two National Park systems on the Delaware also make a huge impact.
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) is the 10th most visited park in the entire National Park Service system of 361 park units. The DWGNRA reported 3,400,944 visits in 2017. Eight times since 2000 the count exceeded 5 million.
The Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River recorded 264,362 visits in 2016, which was 8% over 2015. There were 253,537 visits counted in 2017. The annual count exceeded 300,000 twice since 2000.
In addition to park unit facilities, the river corridor thrives with livery operations and fishing guide services on the water and businesses that benefit on both sides of the river.
Chambers of Commerce
Each of the local chambers of commerce play a big role in marketing the area for tourism, while seeking to build up the business community.
A major event hosted The Chamber of the Northern Poconos is the annual 4th of July fireworks at Lake Wallenpaupack. A tradition that dates to 1975, Debbie Gillette, Executive Director of he Chamber said in a recent interview that the fireworks in 2018 are planned to be the largest they ever had.
She said that the Lake Region can boast that this is one of the best fireworks displays in the area. Having become a family tradition for many, thousands of people come out each year to view the display. Gillette said the local restaurants, merchants, marinas, campgrounds and marinas all benefit.
The Northern Poconos Chapter operates out of the Wayne County Visitors Center at 303 Commercial St., Honesdale, and the Lake Region office on the lower level of the Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Center.
Bellinger, President of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce, said that the Chamber is partnering with the PMVB by operating a new visitors center during the week in the Milford Community House, the historic Pinchot mansion at 201 Broad Street. PMVB staff run it on weekends. The Chamber and other organizations relocated their offices here this year.
The Pike Chamber also plans to partner with Lehigh Valley Chamber, to share these services of a much needed executive director. Both tourist and business development are expected to benefit.
The Greater Carbondale Chamber of Commerce manages tourism and business development from their offices at 27 N. Main St., Carbondale.
Michelle Bannon, President, said their area has a great deal to offer tourists, including the lakes, Elk Mountain ski area, the Route 6 Corridor and the history promoted by the Carbondale Area Historical Society. The town also features Pioneer Days in August, a big draw.
Carbondale, as well as Waymart and Honesdale, was named a Heritage Community by the PA Route 6 Alliance, which encourages travel to the many attractions along the way.
John Gorel, Interim Director at the Carbondale Chamber, pointed to the Lackawanna Heritage Valley trail mostly along the rail bed, linking Scranton to Carbondale and linking with the D&H Rails to Trails system nearby. Steamtown train excursions also come to Carbondale. The Chamber is planning a special wine tasting train excursion in September, with stops down the Mid-Valley.
Visitors Center at Lake Wallenpaupack
Keith Williams, the director of the PMVB’s Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Bureau can attest to the significant impact that tourism has on local businesses, as well as the local economy as a whole.
Williams explained that 10 percent of jobs in the state of Pennsylvania, are related to tourism and hospitality, however, in the Pocono Mountain’s Lake Region, as many as 36 percent of jobs are related to those two areas.
According to Williams, an average of 33,000 people visit the local Visitors Bureau each year. During the fall and winter seasons, there are usually 150 weekly visitors, but during the summer, the weekly average is around 1,500 people.
Williams said he believes that hotels and restaurants are the two businesses that are affected the most by seasonal tourism. Aside from hotels and restaurants, attractions such as marinas, boat rentals, river rafting, and even businesses like Costa’s Family Fun Park are affected as well.
The affects of tourism ripples through businesses like local super markets, realtors, and even home builders. With the amount of vacation homes and summer rentals in the area, once the summer season arrives, the local population explodes.
Williams explained that local businesses are also know for coming together to promote the area through community events. Williams chairs the Wally Lake Fest, an event that takes place each year, a week before Labor Day.
The event, which is run by the Downtown Hawley Partnership, has changed one of the slowest weeks in the summer into by far the area’s busiest. Local businesses (both profit and non-profit) pool resources together for the event, such as monetary donations to fund brochures, social media pages, live performers and a free shuttle system.
Numerous festivals, fairs and concert events punctuate local event calendars. Not every event is mentioned here.
Some of the larger events include the Milford Music Festival and Black Bear Film Festival in Milford; Wally Lake Fest, Hoe Down and Winterfest in the Hawley area; and Discover Honesdale, Roots & Rhythm Music & Arts Festival, Steampunk Honesdale, Harvest & Heritage Days and Honesdale for the Holidays, -presented by Greater Honesdale Partnership.
The Wayne County Fair, near Honesdale, the 156th edition happening in early August, is a huge draw, nearing 100,000 and even topping that number of attendees in recent years. The GDS Fair in Newfoundland, held in late August is also a major tradition.
There are also ski resorts, include Ski Big Bear at Masthope and Elk Mountain, in or near the northern Poconos.
Heritage tourism is another major factor for tourism. Local historical societies, from Carbondale to Equinunk, the Newfoundland area to Milford, as well as organizations promoting the heritage such as the National Park Service on the Upper Delaware, have joined forces to market what they do. These entities form the Local History Roundtable, and have produced the “Local History Past-Port”. This printed guide to each society and group includes pictures, descriptions, contact information and a map. Take it around to each site and have it stamped, like a passport, and be eligible for a prize.
Promised Land State Park in Pike County, as well as Prompton State Park and Varden Conservation Area in Wayne, draw visitors to enjoy the great outdoors. Numerous opportunities abound for outdoor recreation, whether it is water sports, geo-caching, hiking, fishing, hunting or camping.
Some of the other key sites include Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford; Dorflinger Glass Museum, Willdfower Music Festival and Dorflinger Factory Museum in White Mills; and the Wayne County Historical Society’s D&H Canal Park at Lock 31, near Hawley.
The Stourbridge Line train excursions were started in 1979 by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce. Since 2015 the Delaware Lackawaxen & Stourbridge Railroad has operated the excursions, with boarding at Honesdale and Hawley and trips as far as Lackawaxen.
While trains once brought tourists to this area, local railroad excursions now attract tourists who come by car.
More is planned. Parties enthusiastic about developing trails for hikes, nature walks and bicycles, have joined forces to develop a regional trail system from Honesdale to Hawley, reaching Lake Wallenpaupack and beyond. The railroad is also part of the vision, creating a walking path alongside the tracks.
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