Visitors association contract not terminated—yet

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 2/3/21

MONTICELLO, NY — Roberta Byron-Lockwood inherited the dying Borscht Belt, recalled former county manager Jonathan Drapkin. And then she “set about reshaping the county’s tourism …

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Visitors association contract not terminated—yet

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MONTICELLO, NY — Roberta Byron-Lockwood inherited the dying Borscht Belt, recalled former county manager Jonathan Drapkin. And then she “set about reshaping the county’s tourism sector, once known as the premier tourism destination in the northeast.” 

Paul Carlucci from Sullivan Catskills, also known as the Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA), read Drapkin’s statement at last Thursday’s regular Sullivan County Legislature meeting. It was part of a discussion on the future of the agency and its contract with the county. 

The SCVA would have its own board, Drapkin said, with the county as a partner. It would be supported by the room tax, “in exchange for deriving the benefit of increased sales tax.” It is estimated that the contribution of sales tax to room tax “has nearly doubled.”

Legislative chair Rob Doherty introduced a resolution that says that the county would like to consider tourism promotion “in totality” and wants to be free of obligations. 

Passing a resolution of intention to terminate the contract would start a 60-day renegotiating period. 

The Kartrite, said sales and marketing director Dan Paradiso, has been closed for 10 months. When they are finally able to reopen, they’d need the support of the SCVA. Speaking as a board member for the SCVA, he said, “If we take that 60-day period... that actually hurts our ability as an organization to make forward-looking marketing agreements with vendors, with co-op marketing... to really embody the entire destination.” 

Others spoke about the transformation the visitors association has created in the county since it was founded in 1998. 

According to NYS Oxford Tourism Economic Study figures provided by the visitors association, “Sullivan Catskills ranked the highest for tourism growth at 12.2 percent based on visitors spending. This growth since 2009 has increased 85 percent from $311,670,000 to $577,900,000 in 2019.”

“Look at our record,” said Roberta Byron-Lockwood. Sullivan Catskills president/CEO. “Look at what we’ve done for the county. Please do not cancel our contract. Our businesses, our towns and our residents are counting on us.” 

Why, demanded commenter Cat Scott, are you trying to terminate the contract of the visitors association, when the county is highly ranked in terms of tourism versus its low rank for health?

“[There are] people coming with dreams,” former Forestburgh supervisor Bill Sipos said. “People coming with hopes, and investing their life’s fortune to making Sullivan County a better place.” 

Alan Sorensen asked why the contract needs to be terminated. Other legislators asked why all weren’t invited to attend a meeting held with Senator Mike Martucci and the visitors association. 

Ultimately, they moved to table the matter for 30 days.

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