Cycling, trail challenges part of St. Lawrence County chamber’s 2020 marketing
Sunday, January 12, 2020 - 4:25 pm

By ADAM ATKINSON

North Country This Week

CANTON – The St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce is looking at 2020 with an eye toward promoting the region’s tourism assets.

The focus this year will be on the area’s sport fishing, ongoing development of the chamber’s interactive trails website with the launch of several trail challenges, and pushing the region’s family friendly cycling events and resources to the Canadian market, said Chamber Executive Director Brooke Rouse.

An agreement designating the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce as the official tourism agency for the county was recently renewed for the year. The designation allows the chamber to utilize I Love NY funds from Empire State Development to promote the region with a county dollar match.

Since the funding stream has been available from the state, the chamber has served as the county’s tourism agent.

“As far as I know the county chamber has always played that role,” Rouse said.

“We submit the annual application, a marketing plan and a budget to the state,” Rouse said. The county then matches the funding provided by the state.

The money is a restricted fund, said Rouse. “Every dollar of that money has to be approved by the state.”

I Love NY money is to be used for promoting the region’s tourism assets in a thematic way, and can not be used to promote specific events.

For instance the chamber uses the money to market the region’s sport fishing events with brand recognition and advertising in fish and game guides in places like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, declaring St. Lawrence County the “World’s Fishing Capital,” “Your Freshwater Fishery…” and “Where the pros come to fish.” The effort in turn helps promote the Bassmaster Elite Series, Major League Fishing in Ogdensburg, and the FLW Pro Circuit, which in turn provides more exposure of the area through their national brand recognition and fan base.

As a tourism promoter for the region, the chamber also fields three destination websites including www.visitstlc.com, www.stlctrails.com, and www.fishcap.net. The chamber contracts with local providers and businesses to provide content for the websites and web development, Rouse said.

Rouse points to the trail site as an example of the work the organization is doing to spread the word about the region. “(The website) is premier in the state.”

Logging in through a smart phone, a hiker, biker, ATV rider, snowmobiler, cross country skier, snowshoer, or horseback rider can find specific trails on a GPS map that links with Google maps to show trails, topographical information, nearby geocaches and trail tips for their next quest.

In the coming year the organization will develop interactive trail challenges for local residents and visitors to take on through the website. Successful completion of the challenges will earn a patch to commemorate the achievement. “This patch idea just gets people going nuts,” she said.

“We are really looking at elevating some of these other trail events,” she said.

She said the organization will look to capitalize on the success of its Harvester cycling event last fall that had 80 riders turn out to take the trek along St. Lawrence County roads, many from outside the area.

The organization hopes to push the county as a family-friendly cycling destination this year, notably in the Canadian market, focusing on the border communities and 100 miles north. Rouse said about 30 percent of the population of Montreal self-identifies as cyclists. Three big Canadian cities, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto and the populations between, present a huge source of potential cycling tourists for St. Lawrence County.

Rouse said the I Love NY money with the county match is around $130,000 to promote the region, and the organization obtains other grants to help fund its tourism efforts as well.

The director outlined the chamber’s strategy for getting the most out of that money.

“The focus is on sending the message to the right people, the key population that makes sense,” she said.

That means doing things like purchasing editorial and advertising space in Canadian media to promote St. Lawrence County as a winter hiking destination to target that part of the county’s story to the demographic that wants that information. The county chamber is part of the Thousand Islands Seaway region and the Adirondack region which allows it to share promotion costs with other agencies pushing these regions as well.

“We’ve got really strong assets to promote,” she said. “It takes time.”

“It’s a balancing act of how can we leverage the most money (for the best result),” Rouse said.