At the Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting last Thursday, Executive Director Brian McFadden went over the events of last year and declared it “a very successful year”. All together the chamber put on 10 events from June through October and found that each event attracted more people than in previous years. “Every event was up in volume”, Mr. McFadden told me, adding that it helped that it didn’t rain during any of the events. “Our job is to put heads in beds and bumps in seats” he says with a laugh. In fact our overnight stays were up 38% between June and November 2011. He goes on to state that most regions consider 3 – 5% annual growth to be good, and also points out we’re still in a recession. As usual Fall Festival was the most popular event. The second most popular event is the Summer Music Festival which added a third day last year, and set a record for gross receipts with an increase of 53% over the previous year. But the chamber tracks more than just money, they also pay close attention to reaction from visitors. “Feedback from the events is very positive. People look around and the Village is so clean, the events are well organized, and cater to families. Hats off to our DPW and law enforcement for helping make our events such a success”, he went on to say.
The other statistic the chamber watches closely is lodging revenues; how full the hotels and condos stay. McFadden says that every quarter last year set a gross sales record, with an average quarterly increase over 27%. “We have a huge capacity for overnight stays,” says McFadden. With the Inn at Holiday Valley. the Wingate, the Tamarack Club, the Edelweiss, the Bed & Breakfasts and 1600 condos for rent, the town can accommodate large numbers of visitors year round. McFadden points out “If there was nothing happening in the off season they (the hotels) wouldn’t be here.” Skiing alone could not sustain the prosperous community we enjoy.
Marketing is the key to the town’s success, and the chamber sees its primary mission as marketing Ellicottville. “We’re one of the smallest chambers around, but we do more advertising,” he says. In addition to the radio and television advertising the chamber also promotes E-Ville through billboards. Currently they have an electronic billboard up by the Peace Bridge at Niagara Falls. The electronic message that is flashed across the broad can be changed right from the chamber office in the Village. The chamber has also embraced the brave new world of social media. It now boasts 7,000 Facebook fans, a large assortment of videos on YouTube, a blog, and its own e-newsletter. One of the most cost effective outreach programs they have is getting free editorial coverage in various magazines and newspapers. They arrange with travel writers to place stories about E-Ville events in the vehicles they write for. The town has been mentioned in such publications as: USA Today, New Yorker Magazine, Toronto Star, and AAA Magazine. According to McFadden the various stories over the years have amounted to almost 1 million dollars in free advertising. “It’s a lot of work for a three person staff.” McFadden credits Kelly and Heather with taking on much of the work.
Looking to this year McFadden is enthusiastic about the Centurion Bike Race, saying that over 200 riders have already signed up. He says that some of the riders will check into town a few days before the race to practice on the course, then participate in the race, and stay a day or two after to re-run the race and try to improve their time. Everybody who stays overnight spends about $140 per day, and that over all the event should bring about 2 million dollars to the community. When you consider all the types of activities this town can provide, and a chamber that gets the word out, it’s no wonder that National Geographic Magazine called Ellicottville one of the “top adventure communities in America,” and Canada’s National Post newspaper said in a recent article “arriving there (Ellicottville) is like driving into a greeting card.”