Nordica Holochuck, Hudson Estuary Specialist, NYSG, firstname.lastname@example.org
KINGSTON, NY, August 10, 2009 - Throughout a large part of the year, especially in the summer and fall months, Hudson Valley residents and tourists are out kayaking, windsurfing, motor boating, fishing and even swimming along New York’s most famous river. People are launching kayaks in Kingston or antiquing in Cold Spring, or gallery hopping in Beacon. Or is it hiking in Constitution Marsh near Cold Spring, shopping for antiques on Beacon’s Main Street or enjoying a Riverfront festival in Kingston? The choices are many and, as a new NYSG publication illustrates, these three Hudson Valley communities are interested in finding out just what it is that gives each its unique character that residents and visitors find so appealing.
“With nature-based and heritage tourism both increasing in popularity in the Hudson Valley, many coastal communities face challenges in retaining stable local economies,” says Dr. Rudy Schuster, formerly of the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. That’s why Schuster, along with ESF’s Diane Kuehn, led a team in a recently-completed NYSG-funded project to help find the best ways to promote river related tourism in the Hudson River Valley (HRV).
This team, assisted by Penn State University’s Duarte Morais, just released a 42-page publication summarizing their analysis of the attributes that residents and visitors have identi¬fied as characterizing each community.
“Our aim with this research was to help characterize for these communities the distinct image that represents their unique social, cultural and environmental qualities in sustainable tourism development,” says Schuster.
This ‘destination image’ will provide usable information about the attributes of the natural environment and tourism opportunities that identify the destination as similar or unique in relation to other Hudson destinations--and that tourists find attractive.
“Understanding which attributes of the nature and heritage tourism experience are attractive and valued by tourists will facilitate marketing efforts, increase visitation and enable market positioning among these communities,” says Morais.
Adds Kuehn, “As detailed in the report, we found that visitors have a positive image of the communities. The majority of visitors are either likely or very likely to return within two years and to recommend the communities to others.”
According to study findings, while many visitors are drawn to the HRV for nature-based activities and water recreation opportunities, on average, cultural activities are most frequently participated in by visitors. Visitors clearly link the unique natural setting of the HRV with cultural activities, as exhibited by responses to image questions, where River viewing and access received high scores.
Residents' images of their communities were also positive. Residents engage in cultural activities more often than nature-based activities or water recreation activities. Increased participation in cultural activities leads to a more positive image of both cultural and nature offerings, suggesting that local natural resources are important to residents, regardless of whether they engage in outdoor recreation activities.
A higher percentage of residents than tourists report receiving information about local activities and events from a range of sources. Participation in cultural activities and length of residency contribute to a stronger place identity among residents.
“As Hudson River communities are revitalized through increased public access and recreation opportunities,” says NYSG’s Hudson Estuary Specialist Nordica Holochuck, “these cities, towns and villages need information that can guide tourism planning and also preserve the scenic beauty, open spaces and relative tranquility valued by residents and visitors alike. And, the findings in this research project will help.”
“I think the most exciting thing about this project was that we went from social science theory all the way down to application in one project,” says Schuster. “The level of excitement of the local communities about getting this information really made this a meaningful project to us in science as well as on the ground.”