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Tourism survey concludes rainy summer weather was barrier to business

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Rainy May and June weather slowed tourism in the Thousand Islands, but most business owners surveyed from the region called the 2013 tourism season a success.

The 1000 Islands International Tourism Council’s annual business confidence survey found more than half of the 200 respondents rated business as weak in May, while 43 percent gave negative responses for June. The majority of respondents rated July, August and September as strong.

The poll included 124 Americans, 57 Canadians and 19 respondents who did not disclose their location.

Overall, positive feelings about summer tourism sank from 80 percent in 2012 to 73 percent in 2013. The summer weather was given a negative rating by 36 percent of respondents, up from 10 percent in 2012.

Respondents “said business was very weak on both sides of the border in May and June,” said Gary S. DeYoung, executive director of the Tourism Council. “It was a slow start, and they’re not our strongest months to begin with. In May and June, people weren’t thinking about what to do during the summer” because of the rainy weather.

The survey shows attitudes among business owners have gradually improved, however, toward water levels, gas prices and ease of crossing the border.

About 26 percent of U.S. and Canadian respondents said Lake Ontario water levels had a negative or very negative impact on business. That’s a significant improvement from 2012, when about 63 percent reported negative business results because of unusually low water levels; some people pulled boats out of the water up to three weeks earlier than normal for winter storage, which slowed business at marinas, restaurants and hotels.

“This year we didn’t have the drop of water levels in the fall that affected businesses,” Mr. DeYoung said. “But on the flip side, we got all of the rain in the spring.”

The survey, which was launched in 1999, also shows that respondents no longer view gas prices and crossing the border as significant barriers to business, Mr. DeYoung said. The question about the ease of crossing the border was added to the survey in 2004; that year, 47 percent of respondents gave the category a rating of negative or very negative. In 2013, only 33 percent gave negative responses.

“I think people have gotten used to the rules at the border, and they have kind of stopped changing constantly,” Mr. DeYoung said. “The border has been well-staffed, and we aren’t seeing the kind of backups we’ve seen in the past.”

Supporting that trend has been the increasing number of Canadian visitors to the Thousand Islands region in recent years, Mr. DeYoung said. About 10 years ago, roughly the same numbers of Americans and Canadians crossed the Thousand Islands International Bridge during the tourism season; today, about two-thirds of the traffic is attributed to Canadians.

“We have a lot more Canadians coming to the U.S. for visits, especially one-overnight stays,” he said. “The proof is in the pudding, and we’re seeing tons of Canadian visitors.”

A total of 65 percent of business owners gave positive responses to a new survey question about the awareness of the Thousand Islands as a tourism destination.

The survey was mailed to about 800 businesses in the Tourism Council’s database.

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