By Brian McFadden
What has the Chamber done for me, as a homeowner, lately? You can pretty much sum it up with five words: getting feet on the street.
In the first part of this three-part series, I wrote about how our festivals have helped to transform Ellicottville from a ski town to a four-season resort town. And that has far-reaching benefits. The first and most obvious benefit that I covered in my last article is that Ellicottville has become a community where we attract visitors not only from Western New York, but further afield from Cleveland and much of Ohio, from Northern Pennsylvania and from Southern Ontario. A recent license plate check on a summer Saturday listed visitors from 17 different states. Ellicottville has literally become excitement central for multiple markets. So much so that we now generate 60 percent of all the county’s tourism revenue. And it’s a year-round phenomenon.
Our latest stats show that 45 percent of lodging revenue is now generated during the non-ski seasons and one must remember that room rates are much lower in the non-ski season months. And our lodging in 2017 was at an all-time high going back to when we began monitoring occupancy numbers in 2004. In all, Ellicottville now attracts over 1.5 million visitors a year, which adds up not only to a lot of bums in beds (if you’ll pardon the expression) but plenty of feet on the street.
All of this has a ripple effect. Organized highly successful events and marketing and advertising campaigns attract a lot of people who in turn, spend their money in restaurants, bars, shops, boutiques and spas and create jobs. Those folks who initially visited for events and the village experience were the catalyst for the boom in buying second homes in Ellicottville and current visitors help retain our market values and the property and sales tax base allowing Village and Town governments to do what they need to do to maintain our infrastructure. It is estimated that approximately 70 percent of our local property taxes are paid by non-residents.
If there is one job more than anything the Chamber has taken ownership, it goes back to those five words already mentioned: getting feet on the street. Without a doubt, our mandate is to support our Chamber members — the owners of the shops, restaurants and other businesses we all benefit from—and hopefully increase the quality of life for our local residents. But because we live and breathe a free market economy, what we aren’t in the business of doing is chasing more retail. Instead, what we do is create favorable conditions that will attract quality businesses and developers to the area to complement what we already have.
And it’s a formula that’s working. Unlike some communities, Ellicottville doesn’t have the usual mix of big box or chain stores. What we have are businesses that offer unique products and services that are much more likely to attract visitors than a store that visitors can find at home.
So, what if you’ve never visited Ellicottville before? What if you may not have heard about our events and festivals? What is the Chamber doing to change that? That’s a question for the third and final part of this series: Making the Connection.