Sullivan County has the highest tourism revenue growth rate of any county in New York State. Two years running.
So Robert Doherty, Chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature, threatens to terminate the contract between the county and the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association, a contract that is in place until December 31, 2022.
Which for any other chairman would be inexplicable. SCVA, piloted by travel and media veteran Roberta Byron-Lockwood and managed by a board of travel and leisure heavyweights, has pushed Sullivan County into a number of firsts including the highest local sales tax revenue increase (county revenue from visitors) of any county in the state at nearly 13%. A 15% increase in tourist spend for the county is also the highest in the state.
Sullivan County receives $35 from tourists for every dollar spent by SCVA and SCVA delivers to the county $2,238 for every single Sullivan County household, ranking it fifth out of 62 New York State counties on the metric.
And it does this without spending a single Sullivan County taxpayer dollar.
Listening to Doherty talk about the SCVA is like listening at Thanksgiving to the noisy not-so-sharp brother claim he can coach the Pats better.
Well he can’t.
Let’s take a look at one operation with which Robert Doherty has some experience, social media.
Outside of perhaps LifeAlert and AAG Reverse Mortgages, advertisers, Sullivan County businesses like bars, restaurants and outdoor leisure included, crave youth. Lockwood doubled the county’s social media following in one year to north of 50,000. Doubled followers in one year. That’s a remarkable accomplishment and accomplished with seasoned strategy.
Meanwhile, anyone that had the misfortune to witness the train wreck that was Robert Doherty’s Facebook feed several Friday night’s ago will know better than any that Doherty is the last person in the county you want judging a successful social media strategy. Not if you’re actually looking for success.
So unless Robert Doherty has persuaded Jeff Bezos to take on Sullivan County tourism during retirement, his decision to revisit the Sullivan County Visitors Association agreement is indefensible.
Speaking of agreements, in a public statement released by the County Legislature on January 27, Doherty states “We cannot negotiate [a new SCVA agreement] without terminating the current contract.”
Which will come as a big surprise to anyone who has ever refinanced a mortgage, asked for a pay raise, or requested that a spouse pick up socks.
It’s just nonsense. And a lie. (Read The unlikely convergence of a Capital and a Care Center for more Doherty lies.)
But more shocking than the lies that come from this chair is the incompetence. He stated, out loud and representing county government, that a contract can’t be negotiated between two parties currently in a contract.
[cue laugh track]
Doherty will claim that he is protecting county taxpayer dollars. And county taxpayers should watch how their dollars are spent. (They can start by noting forthcoming legal fees the county incurs as a result of the chair’s recent bizarre behavior.)
More pressing to understand, however, is that claim will also be a lie. Every Sullivan Catskills Visitor Association budget dollar comes from a bed tax that county lodging properties collect from visitors. Not a dime of its budget comes from county taxpayers.
Which begs one last question: What exactly is Robert Doherty’s inexplicable, indefensible interest in the SCVA contract anyway?
Data from Sullivan County Legislature, Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association and from Tourism Economics – an Oxford Economics Company.