Troy Moving Forward on its Past
by Don Rittner

On April 5th, last week, the city administration convened a meeting in the newly renovated Rice Building between government officials, preservationists, developers, and interested citizens. The Mayor wants to develop a preservation and development policy that will not conflict with each other. It's a tough task but one that can be successfully constructed, in my opinion.

Basic in the need is the formulation of good historic zoning laws and design criteria for new development. There are many examples throughout the country of cities, towns, and even villages that have wrestled with this problem and arrived at good planning policy. Hopefully, we can borrow from those successes and apply them here in Troy.

I've said it many times but Troy can be a mecca for heritage tourism. I have more statistics to back it up.

Back in 1992, travel and tourism was the world's largest industry. In 1994, tourism was the third largest industry in America, contributing $417 billion to the U.S. economy. In addition, tourism generated $6.3 million in direct jobs, making tourism the nation's second largest employer. By 2005, Tourism will be our nation's leading industry.

A recent Travel Industry Association of America survey found that 53.6 million adults said they visited a museum or historical site in the past year and 33 million U.S. adults attended a cultural event such as a theater, arts, or music festival. Cultural and historic travelers spend more, stay in hotels more often, visit more destinations and are twice as likely to travel for entertainment purposes than other travelers.

Expenditures by visitors from other nations in 1998 directly supported almost 1.1 million jobs in the United States. International tourist generated tax revenues are estimated to have totaled over $9.3 billion in 1998. The top states visited by overseas travelers in 1998 were: Florida, California, New York, Hawaii, and Nevada. Nine states saw over 1 million visitors in 1998. Troy is only a hop, skip, and a jump from New York City, a major tourist destination.

Top Activities of overseas travelers in 1998 were: Shopping (89%), Dining in restaurants (83%), Sightseeing in cities (45%), Amusement/theme parks (33%), Visit historical places (33%), Visit small towns/villages (30%), Water sports/sunbathing (26%), Touring the countryside (24%), Visit National Parks (21%), and Visit art galleries/museums (20%). Troy has most of these themes.

Remarkably, the foreign tourism market is a potential gold mine for Troy. In 1997, 7,852,000 of the overseas visitors to the U.S. or one in three overseas visitors were American Culturalist Shoppers. These are overseas travelers who engaged in both shopping and cultural and/or ethnic heritage tourism activities during their visit to the U.S. To qualify, the traveler had to have shopped and done one or more of the following activities:
-Visited a Cultural Heritage Site
-Visited an Ethnic Heritage Site
-Visited at least two of the following:
-Art gallery/museum
-American Indian Community
-Historical Place
-National Park

Combine that with Cultural Shoppers, those who engaged in both shopping and visiting a cultural heritage site. In 1997 this represented 4,477,000 or 19% of the overseas visitors to the U.S. Additionally, add the Ethnic Shopper, those who engage in both shopping and visiting an ethnic heritage site. In 1997 this represented 1,190,000 or 5% of the overseas visitors to the U.S.

The top five state destinations for the shopping segment as a whole were California (27%), Florida (25%), New York (21%), Hawaii (14%) and Nevada (10%), based on multiple responses. These figures change when it comes to the American Culturist Shopper who picks New York as the number one destination.

Visiting Historical Places was the top activity overall for all three sub-segments.

Americans are doing it too! The Travel Association of America survey reports that of the 46% of American travelers who included a cultural activity while on a trip, a third of them added extra time to their trip to accommodate more cultural activity. This translated to 26.8 million adults adding some 14 million additional nights. Those who extended their trips for cultural activities had higher household incomes than other travelers ($48,000 vs. $37,000), higher levels of education (41% completed college vs. 32%) and were more likely to be in a managerial or professional position (31% vs. 24%).

The total number of travellers in the U.S. in 1998 were 199.8 million people. 92.4 million or 46% participated in a cultural event with the most popular activities including visiting a Historic Site or community (31%), or museum (24%).

Clearly, few other cities in the Hudson Valley have such a combination of historic structures downtown, or river front, that can be developed into such historic themes for tourism. Troy's past is its future. Let's hope that everyone can get together and agree to move Troy into an economic renaissance.