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Taking A ‘Staycation’

Lieutenant Governor Leads Tourism Discussion

Left, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is being show how to use one of the safe interactive exhibits at the National Comedy Center by Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center executive director, following a roundtable discussion of local tourism industry professionals. P-J photos by Dennis Phillips

The term “Staycation” has been a popular marketing tool for years to convince area residents to visit local tourism-related businesses.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, however, local tourism destinations maybe the only option to have summer fun for Chautauqua County residents. Luckily, Chautauqua County has many destinations and attractions to keep locals busy who are planning their own “Staycation.”

On Tuesday, officials from several of the county’s attractions joined Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in a roundtable discussion on how to build back better following the COVID-19 outbreak. Hochul was joined by Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist; Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center executive director; Michael Hill, Chautauqua Institution president; Andrew Nixon, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau executive director; Kristan McMahon, Robert H. Jackson Center president; Ben Webb, Webb’s Captain’s Table owner; Jonathan Weston, Panama Rocks executive director; and Angela Berti, New York State Parks; for the discussion on how to “Build Back Better,” which is a new state marketing campaign as the economy is reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hochul said Chautauqua County residents should take advantage of the numerous attractions that can be found locally. She said this might be one of the few summers where local residents can visit the tourist locations without having to wait in long lines.

“This is the summer to tour your own backyard,” she said. “We have so much to be proud of here.”

From right, Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul during a roundtable discussion with tourism leaders that included officials from the National Comedy Center, Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, Robert H. Jackson Center, Webb’s Captain’s Table, Panama Rocks and New York State Parks at the National Comedy Center Tuesday.

Gunderson discussed how when the National Comedy Center shutdown in March, center officials went to work on how to redesign the interactive exhibits for the COVID-19 pandemic era. She said center officials crated the “Laugh Safe” initiative that allows users to still interact with the exhibits while staying safe. She added since the center reopened July 3, guests have taken a survey following their visit.

Gunderson said the survey results indicate that 99% of the visitors feel safe, 99% would recommend family and friends to visit the center and 93% felt the new safety guidelines didn’t negatively impact their visit.

Weston, Panama Rocks executive director, said he too has been asking visitors to fill out a survey since they switched to an online reservation system in order to have no contact with visitors. He also said 99% of visitors to Panama Rocks scenic trail feel safe as well.

“If it’s not safe, it’s not worth doing,” he said.

Hill said even though the lectures at Chautauqua Institution aren’t happening in-person this year, the virtual option has been quite popular. He also said with restaurants and shops being open again that residents are getting back to doing what they typically did before the pandemic.

“The grounds still fell very much alive,” he said.

Webb said it took the 78-year-old business some time to adjust to providing meals via only curbside pickup. However, he said now not only are they doing curbside pickup at the restaurant, located at 115 W. Lake Road, Mayville, but they’re also providing it for boaters at Chautauqua Marina, which is located across the street from the restaurant and hotel.

McMahon said the Jackson Center is back to providing tours of the facility, which are done safely because they follow the social distancing guidelines. Nixon said many outdoor recreational businesses like golf courses and marinas are doing great business this summer.

Hochul said she will take the information she learned from the tourism professionals and pass it on to the state tourism division officials who are working on a new marketing campaign to encourage people to build back better. She said the best practices she learned Tuesday will hopefully be passed on to other tourism professionals in the state and possibly across the nation.

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