Six weeks ago, management at the Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center in Lake George was hoping for a worry-free, mask-free summer, with the least COVID concerns and restrictions since the start of 2020.

Then came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an upheaval in world oil prices that trickled down to the pumps. The upscale 192-room hotel has responded by offering a $50 discount (“one tank of gas”) off total guest bills and other discounts for those who donate to the Red Cross Ukrainian.

“The luck with COVID is that we’ve done very well for the past two years,” said Tom Wysocki, the hotel’s marketing director. “We are marketing people from the city and New Jersey who were locked up and looking to get out. … The summer is going very well, but gas prices are a big concern.

Even if a typical upstate winter refuses to give up its grip entirely, March is when people start to dream of a warm day on the road, and maybe some beer and beach time.

It looks like the summer of 2022 will be the first “normal” summer in three years, with 2020 almost entirely plagued by the pandemic and 2021 also feeling the grim presence of COVID, even though things were closer to normal.

COVID won’t go away this summer, but there are broad indications the situation is much better than it has been — the state dropped the indoor mask mandate in February, which was in place most of the past two years, and COVID hospitalizations and deaths have plummeted since a brief winter surge.

The other big problem for the hospitality industry during the pandemic — finding enough help to hire — should also improve this summer.

“A human level”

One of the benefits of the easing of international travel restrictions related to COVID is that places like Lake George, which have traditionally relied on international students to fill summer jobs, can once again expect they can get J-1 visas to travel. (About 1,000 J-1 visa workers came to Lake George each year before the pandemic, causing a severe labor shortage.)

“We expect to see many of them return this year, although we don’t know how the heartbreaking war in Ukraine will affect that number,” said Amanda Metzger, spokesperson for the Lake George Chamber of Commerce. .

In the past, many foreign students coming to Lake George have come from Eastern Europe, including Ukraine and Belarus, Metzger said, and business owners have developed long-term relationships with Ukrainians. , so a number of companies have contributed to the relief efforts.

“It’s definitely a success for our companies, not only in terms of finding workers, but on a human level,” she said.

Fort William Henry, where at least 20 Ukrainian students have worked in recent years, is donating some food and room proceeds in March and April to Ukrainian Humanitarian Aid, and has already raised nearly 13,000 dollars, Wysocki said Friday.

But while famous destinations like Lake George and Saratoga Springs have been tourist meccas for decades, tourism is also a big part of the economy of many other communities in the Capital Region and beyond.

Montgomery County, for example, has new appeal this year thanks to the 2021 completion of the Empire State Trail’s statewide bike path system, which has included improvements to the Erie Canalway Trail. , long established.

Fulton County, parts of which lie inside the Adirondack Park, bills itself as the land of “44 lakes” – the famous and enormous Great Sacandaga Lake being just one of them. Both counties are also rich in local history dating back to before the American Revolution.

“I think we were lucky to have things open with limitations last year, and it will be great to see things get back to normal this year,” said Ann Boles, director of tourism for the Chamber. of Fulton-Montgomery Commerce.

“I think the outlook is great,” Boles continued. “Even with COVID, we’ve had the benefit of our outdoor activities and our natural beauty, and people are taking advantage of our outdoor beauty and discovering new outdoor activities. Then they would come back and tell other people about it.

A few minutes by car

Schenectady County will promote its parks, concerts and outdoor attractions as well as destinations such as Proctors and Mohawk Harbor at city markets less than 3.5 hours away, said Todd Garofano, executive director by Discover Schenectady. The Summer Night festival in downtown Schenectady will be back for the first time in three years.

“It will be as normal as possible. Everything is very positive for it to be a great summer,” said Garofano.

Saratoga Springs, which saw a rebound last summer from greatly diminished crowds in 2020, is planning a return to normal.

For Saratoga, normal means the Saratoga Performing Arts Center has ballet and classical seasons, and Live Nation features a full concert schedule at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Saratoga Racetrack also expects a full racing season from mid-July through Labor Day, with no uncertainty — like a year ago — about attendance limits or masking requirements.

Saratoga business leaders expect a full rebound in visitor numbers — or even more than in the pre-COVID era — given the possibility of bottled up travel demand if people got scared of travel in the past two years.

“We are optimistic about the current situation in Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County, with COVID-19 cases remaining very low and vaccination rates remaining very high,” said Darryl Leggieri, president of Discover Saratoga, during an interview. a recent Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce event. Discover Saratoga markets the city and surrounding area as a tourist and convention destination.

Leggieri cited a recent Longwood International study showing a pandemic spike of 92% of people who have traveled in the past are willing to plan their trip in the next six months. “It’s important, and we want to inspire them to visit Saratoga Springs,” he said.

Local Saratoga business leaders said they are confident they can fill jobs and meet visitor demands, despite ongoing supply shortages associated with the pandemic and new uncertainty created by the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia.

“This year we are able to effectively plan and proactively hire for the summer season,” said Kevin Tuohy, General Manager of the Holiday Inn on Broadway. “Although I am of the opinion that it will be a difficult season and that I may not be able to reach the 80 full-time team members that I would like, I am certain that it will be a season where I have enough team members to comfortably meet the needs of our customers.

Back in Lake George, meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce reports that the 2021-2022 winter has been one of the best in recent times for the resort community, where many businesses still close in the winter. The winter carnival took place and there was also a well-known attraction of ice castles. “Tourists have even asked us: ‘What is there to do here in the summer?’ It was a first,” said Metzger, spokesperson for the chamber.

With its easy access to the southern Adirondacks and hotel businesses following COVID protocols, Metzger said Lake George has had strong seasons for the past two years and advance bookings for 2022 are “very strong.”

The area may attract people who might not want to take a long road trip or flight this year, Metzger said. “We are literally well positioned again,” she said. “We are a reservoir [or less than] gas away from several major cities.

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