Table scraps

Sandbags sit stacked on top of each other in May along the St. Lawrence River Walk in Clayton. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

A recent survey revealed that many entrepreneurs felt they suffered worse consequences from the widespread flooding along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River this year than in 2017.

Among the marina owners, lodging providers, attraction operators, restaurateurs, retailers and other businesses that responded to the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council’s 2019 high water impact survey, 60.98 percent, or 73 business operators, reported that the high water levels had far or slightly greater effects than in 2017. According to the survey, which was conducted beginning in early September, 26 respondents, or 21.95 percent, reported experiencing similar effects from the flooding this year and in 2017, and 20 businesses, or 17.07 percent, experienced either slightly or far fewer setbacks from the flooding than in 2017.

When compared with a season with normal water levels, the average business loss this year reported among 85 of the 119 responders was 31 percent, according to the survey, although 40 businesses reported losses of at least 40 percent.

“That question is really a big part of why we wanted to do the survey, because the high water really hit the bottom line for businesses,” said Corey C. Fram, executive director of the tourism council.

Ninety-five businesses, or 80 percent, reported experiencing either very or somewhat negative effects from the high water levels, while 16, or 13 percent, reported experiencing no effects. These effects included physical damage to facilities from inundation, impediments to regular operations and discouraging visitation to the region, which the council claims was the most prominent effect from high waters among respondents.

The survey, however, also revealed that eight businesses, or 7 percent, claimed the high waters yielded somewhat or very positive effects. Examples of businesses that fared better included marinas and campgrounds with facilities that better dealt with the high waters and could accommodate customers of their less fortunate competitors and business that offer marine repair services, Mr. Fram said.

Some held a perception that businesses along the lake and river were closed in the wake of high waters throughout the summer, despite the tourism council, other marketers and the businesses themselves combating that perception in Ottawa, Syracuse, Buffalo and other markets. Mr. Fram said these worries dissuaded visitors from venturing to the region and caused the most harm for most survey responders this season.

“A lot of these folks blame the perception issue more than the high water itself,” Mr. Fram said. “It reinforces the need for appropriate marketing in crises such as this.”

In an effort to help businesses bounce back next year, the tourism council, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning filed a joint application for funds through the Market New York tourism grant program to bolster their promotion efforts.

“Our businesses are open, we just have to make sure we can get people to them,” Mr. Fram said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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