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On Monday, Governor Cuomo announced that Panama Rocks will be included in a $40 million tourism promotion campaign for Upstate NY.
“We have a beautiful Upstate New York that has still not been fully explored and fully discovered. I also think we have an opportunity because we have the lowest positivity rate in the nation,” Cuomo said. “You want to travel this summer? You travel safe and go to a place that you know is safe from COVID and that is the state of New York.”
“We are very pleasantly surprised by this announcement,” said Jonathan Weston, manager of Panama Rocks. “We did not know that Panama Rocks would be included in this campaign, but we are incredibly grateful to be part of this effort to promote tourism in New York State.”
Panama Rocks has received increased attention in recent years, especially now that guests can share their experiences online. Since 2011 Panama Rocks has consistently been listed as TripAdvisor’s #1-ranked attraction in Chautauqua County and in 2019 Inspirock, the world’s largest online trip planning service, listed Panama Rocks as the #1 ranked trail in New York State based on independent guest reviews.
“People are usually surprised at how much there is to explore when they visit Panama Rocks for the first time – and then again when they visit the second time,” said Weston. “We are often told that the park reminds guests of scenes from Jurassic Park or The Hobbit. Panama Rocks is a truly unique place where both kids and adults can have fun exploring and reconnecting with nature.”
Tourism promotion efforts by New York State have an important local impact. Video featuring Panama Rocks is from a campaign conducted by Empire State Development and I Love New York in 2018. “When Panama Rocks was included in a similar campaign in 2018, we noticed an immediate increase in visits to our website and a sustained increase in guests to the park,” noted Weston. “Guests who drive a few hours to visit our area spend money on accommodations, restaurants, and at other local attractions and businesses. Our hope is that our being included in this campaign helps draw attention not just to Panama Rocks but to the many amazing things to experience in Chautauqua County.”
In 2014, research by Dr. Lei Huang of SUNY Fredonia found that the average family visiting Chautauqua County spent $469.51 daily on lodging, meals, shopping, and admissions.
Chautauqua County has gained attention at both the State and National level in recent years. “With the opening of the National Comedy Center and new accommodations such as the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, people throughout the region and across the country are becoming increasingly aware that Chautauqua County is an amazing hidden gem that offers a wonderful and unique vacation experience,” said Weston. “Our goal is to help turn first-time visitors to Panama Rocks and Chautauqua County into people who visit the area over and over again.”
Weston, who currently serves as Chair of the Chautauqua County Visitor’s Bureau (CCVB), added that CCVB has been an integral part in promoting Chautauqua County through its visitor’s guide, online ad campaigns, and coordination of travel writers, among other efforts. “Without CCVB the tourism industry in Chautauqua County would not be anywhere near as successful as it is today. Attractions like Panama Rocks, Chautauqua Institution, the National Comedy Center, Southern Tier Brewing Company, and Lake Erie Wine Country, among many others, draw attention to our area, but the behind-the-scenes efforts of CCVB in coordinating the promotion of Chautauqua County as an overall experience is what pulls our attractions together into a comprehensive experience that can be effectively marketed to guests.”
Weston finished by saying that he is optimistic for the future. “New York State is opening up and every indication is that we can do so safely. Even during the height of COVID in 2020, our guests were gracious, respectful, and considerate of others. Now, with 58% of New Yorkers at least partially vaccinated, we are looking forward to families and friends being able to spend time with one another having fun and making lasting, positive memories after a very difficult year.
See the ads at the 20:28 minute mark in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl8BimHinqY