The first comprehensive study of the Erie Canalway Trail visitor, commissioned by Parks & Trails New York and funded in-part by the New York State Canal Corporation and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, found that the Erie Canalway Trail (ECT) experiences more than 1.58 million visits per year. Spending by these ECT visitors generates approximately $253 million in economic impact and $28.5 million in sales and income taxes and supports 3,440 jobs in the local economies within the trail corridor.
According to the study, however, it is overnight stays that have the greatest impact on visitor spending. While overnight visitors to the ECT constitute only 18.25% of the total volume of visits, they generate 84% of overall spending, primarily for lodging and bars and restaurants.
The study also included surveys of more than 500 trail users which revealed much about the demographics and preferences of ECT visitors that can be of value for future marketing efforts. Typical users of the ECT are employed members of Generation X (ages 30-49) who live within five miles of the trail. They have at least a college degree and a household income equal to or slightly above the state’s 2012 median household income of $57,683. They spend on average $26.37 per person per visit
Responses from trail visitors additionally confirmed that the ECT is an important contributor to the health and quality of life of those who live near it. For example, more than half of those surveyed use the trail at least once a week for 30-60 minutes, most for health and fitness. Almost everyone surveyed said the trail had a positive effect on their well-being.
Information from the 22% of those surveyed who specifically identified themselves as vacationers provided additional data that tourism promotion agencies, chambers of commerce and local businesses can use to better target that market segment. Especially important is the finding that 96% of vacationers said the ECT was a strong factor in their decision to visit or stay in the area and it was the bicycling and the natural scenery that attracted them most.
PTNY will use the study to support its “Close the Gaps Campaign,” as a benchmark for future economic impact studies, and to inform its soon-to-be launched multi-faceted ECT marketing program aimed at adventure travelers and national and international cyclists. PTNY also hopes that the positive economic results will instill government, business and tourism officials with the confidence to invest in additional ECT marketing, promotion, economic development, and trail enhancement efforts.
Read the full report here.