Orange County Leads New York State in Growth of Visitor Spending
Mary Prenon | September 19, 2022
GOSHEN—Orange County is on top of the tourism market according to a new report that indicates a 63.4% growth in visitor spending in 2021. Surpassing the Hudson Valley and New York State percentage increases as a whole, visitor spending increased 49.5% throughout the Hudson Valley and 53.4% statewide.
The international research firm Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, also found that tourists spent $909 million in Orange County in 2021, the same year that LEGOLAND New York Resort opened. Other events that returned after the pandemic included the Pine Bush UFO Fair and New York Renaissance Faire. Across New York State, tourists spent $85.5 billion in 2021.
“The continued success of our Tourism and Film Office has helped economic development in the county and strengthened our economy,” said Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus. “It creates and sustains jobs and supports a vibrant business environment. Orange County is an attractive tourist destination, and we expect it to continue to flourish.”
The report also found that without the tourism dollars, each Orange County homeowner would have been saddled with an average of $1,095 more in 2021 taxes to maintain government services. That was the largest tax impact among Hudson Valley counties.
“We are thrilled to see that the attractions, accommodations, restaurants, and festivals that make Orange County such a wonderful place to visit also contribute so much to its financial strength,” said Amanda Dana, Director of Orange County Tourism and Film.
In addition, tourism was responsible for 7.3% of Orange County’s jobs and Orange also led the six-county Hudson Valley region in retail sales at $383.3 million.
Dana cited the county’s thriving craft beverage scene, festivals, historic lodgings, and seasonal attractions as part of the draw to the area. In addition to the new LEGOLAND New York Resort in Goshen, other popular tourist destinations include the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Storm King Arts Center, several local wineries and annual festivals like the Warwick Applefest and the New York Air Show at the Orange County Airport.
“The findings of the report were not surprising, since we have met with many of our partners and know they are recovering very nicely following the onset of the pandemic in 2020,” said Dana. Although the world-renowned Woodbury Common Premium Outlets lost a significant amount of the Chinese tourist market, the destination shopping attraction still managed to exceed 2019’s economic growth. Typically, Woodbury Common sees more than 13 million visitors every year.
Visitor numbers have also grown during the past year for the Storm King Arts Center at over 225,000 a year, followed closely by the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery at more than 200,000, and Angry Orchard at 150,000.
Another extremely popular outdoor destination is the county’s Heritage Trail, which attracts over half a million people per year. The 18-mile linear walking and bike trail from Middletown to Harriman offers several access points including Monroe, Chester, Goshen, and New Hampton. Businesses like Trailside Treats in Goshen and Mason’s Marketplace in New Hampton have been popping up to cater to the walkers and bikers.
Orange County has also been found to be the top location for retail spending and second for food and beverage sales. “Overall, we are at 86.8% recovered from the 2020 pandemic,” added Dana. “New York City was hit hard and the upstate areas seemed to recover a bit more quickly.”
The largest group of visitor spending is still from the New York Metro area, with more people from Long Island traveling to the area in the past year. “People like a lot of outdoor activities and they’re extending their stays because there’s so much to do here,” Dana said. “The fact that we’re just 60 miles from New York City makes it an easy destination to reach.”
Based in Goshen, Orange County Tourism & Film is the county’s tourism headquarters and a participant in the I LOVE NY program. For more information, please visit www.OrangeTourism.org.
Photos courtesy of Orange County Tourism.