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Tourism official sees reason for optimism as some pandemic restrictions ease

James Brown

As pandemic restrictions ease and vaccinations increase, a local tourism organization is looking for more visitors to come to the Rochester area this summer.

Visit Rochester  had put some of its marketing plans on hold for a while during the pandemic. And even though COVID-19 is still around, things are easing  in terms of restrictions, and more people are getting vaccinated, so that tourism agency is restarting its marketing efforts.

That’s according to the President & CEO of Visit Rochester, Don Jeffries.  He said that they are focusing on the fact that Rochester is a relatively easy market to drive to, since it’s within a 5-hour drive of a third of the U.S. population.

Jeffries said that includes major northeastern cities as well as communities across New York state.

“And we’re targeting those markets, particularly Buffalo, Albany, Binghamton, Syracuse. We target those markets because they’re good ‘drive’ markets. We also have another marketing campaign ready to go, the minute they open that Canadian border.” Jeffries points to a number of outdoor attractions in the Rochester area as well as museums and other indoor locations that can start allowing more visitors as New York eases some restrictions.

Jeffries said that area hotels are seeing an uptick in business already and he said at least two large conventions are booked for this summer. Even with the move to a virtual world for many office workers and meetings, Jeffries still sees a lot of interest by organizations who want their members to meet face-to-face.

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“People want to meet, they want to get together, they want that social interaction, and we’re seeing it,” Jeffries told WXXI News.

Jeffries said that tourism is key to this region’s economic health, since it usually averages about a $1 billion annual impact on the local economy and is connected to around 20,000 jobs. Jeffries said that the pandemic certainly has affected a number of those jobs, but he sees some of them coming back now, including in the restaurant industry.

Jeffries made his comments as the industry is marking National Travel & Tourism week through May 8.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.