Spending by visitors to Westchester grew 5% in 2018 to $1.97 billion, helping push its travel and tourism industry to a record level of economic activity, according to new figures from the state Department of Economic Development obtained through the county Department of Tourism and Film.
Natasha Caputo, director of the tourism and film office, characterized the county as reaching new heights and demonstrating that “the collective efforts between our tourism partners are paying off.”
In 2017, the spending had been about $1.87 billion, which was an increase of 3% over the 2016 result of $1.82 billion.
Westchester ranks third in visitor spending in New York state, with New York City in first place and Long Island coming in second. Since 2009, the industry has been responsible for $17.1 billion of spending in Westchester.
About 45% of all visitor spending in the Hudson Valley region took place in Westchester, according to the statistics. The spending supported 24,360 jobs directly and indirectly in 2018. Those jobs were 5% of jobs in all categories in the county and represent 39% of all visitor-supported jobs in the Hudson Valley region.
Spending on lodging rose 8% to $456.2 million in 2018. There was a 5% increase in the category of food and beverage, which was at $570.9 million. Retail and service stations came in at $354.8 million, also up 5%. Spending on recreation was $185.5 million, transportation was $364.1 million and spending on second homes was at $36.9 million, 4% increases for each of those categories.
According to figures originating with Smith Travel Research and reported by the government agencies, hotel occupancy was up with 1.8 million room-nights used during 2018. The figure represents the total number of rooms occupied on each night during the year.
Local and state taxes generated in the travel and tourism industry as a result of visitor spending came to $233 million during 2018. The local category included sales, property and hotel occupancy taxes. Local taxes rose 1% over what was collected in 2017 to $125.7 million. Sales taxes were $107.3 million, up 4% as compared with 2017. Since 2014, the industry has paid a total of $600.2 million into local tax coffers.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “The tourism industry is important to Westchester County and all of its residents, directly providing good jobs and driving economic growth.” He said the numbers show that efforts to promote the county as a destination are working.
One of the county’s attractions, Playland, showed attendance growth of approximately 10.4% during the latest season. The 2019 attendance was 508,413, compared with 460,160 in 2018. The county operated the amusement park this year after canceling a contract with Standard Amusements to take over its management. Standard Amusements charges in a court case that the cancellation was improper and the contract is valid.
“We’ve got a long way to go to return this facility to what it once was,” Latimer said. He said they have made a good start this year with a new ride, The Dragonator, more concerts and other promotional activities. “We can do better and we will. We’ve turned the corner and we’re heading up in the right direction.”