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Summer is going to be a good season for Chautauqua County's tourism industry

Mike Desmond
The Chautauqua Institution, seen here in 2021, is perhaps Chautauqua County's biggest attraction as a center for religion, culture, education and just kicking back on Chautauqua Lake.

For Chautauqua County, this is a great year, as tourism businesses across the county are doing well, even better than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county's tourism business is running about 5% better than the last normal tourism year in 2019.

Mark Geise is the deputy county executive for economic development and tourism is economic development. There are tourism businesses across Chautauqua and they employ a lot of people, particularly young people.

“There's our wine trails, 20 wineries all along Route 20 there. They're bringing in people," he said. "There's our five different lakes, Lake Erie, Chautauqua Lake, Cassadaga Lake, Bear Lake and Findley Lake. You got Peek'n-Peak resort down there. You got Cockaigne resort. We've got Chautauqua Institution.”

What’s also happening is natives of the county who went off to careers in the wider world and then decided to work from home when the pandemic kicked in and seem to be staying. Geise said that decision may prefigure what will happen.

“What I think is going to be the main thing that brings young people, attracts young people to want to live in an area. It's so much more than: How much are you going to pay me and what are the benefits? It's like what do you have to do here?" he said. "So, I think we are in a good position in Chautauqua County to really fare well in the future in attracting talent.”

The biggest single attraction has been an attraction since it was founded in 1874, the Chautauqua Institution. That’s a center for religion, culture, education and just kicking back on Chautauqua Lake.

Senior Vice President Emily Morris said there were clues this would be a very good year, since people need to make their reservations early.

“Come for a week or longer and many come for the entire summer season and make those plans early because you need to do that for accommodations," Morris said. "So, we did have a good sign early on that patrons were going to be coming back in numbers similar to our most recent normal season, if you will, in 2019.”

While some may be wearing masks, the crowds are back on the grounds and in the Amphitheater.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.