The first year of Destiny USA has been a boon to the tourism industry in central New York, according to tourism officials. David Holder, president of the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau says hotel occupancy figures show a marked increase in visitors when the bureau promotes the mall/entertainment venue. He says the geographic origin of those visitors also tells the tale.
"It used to be that we'd go up to Ottawa; that was our primary Canadian market," Holder said. "It's still our primary Canadian market. But we've seen interest from Montreal, we've seen interest from Toronto. Toronto used to be completely off of our radar because they had to go through Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Rochester to get to us. They're willing to do that because we have this incredible destination."
Depending on the year, central New York has usually seen a one, two or three percent increase in hotel occupancy in the past. Holder compares that to times when the bureau promotes Destiny.
"Those months that we've been out there with the advertising, the hotel performance is up by 11 percent," Holder said. "That's phenomenal growth."
And it's growth Holder says can be directly attributed to Destiny USA. Figures from the mall back up the increase in visitors. Mall Manager Rob Schoeneck says Carousel used to attract about 20 million visitors a year.
"We think with 2013, we are probably closer to 23 or 24 million visitors," Schoeneck said.
Schoeneck says he expects that number could reach 30 million visitors a year in the future. He says more people come to Destiny USA because it's more than just shopping, with things like the WonderWorks, comedy venues and destination restaurants bringing in visitors. And while this draws in people, it also creates a challenge for Holder.
"The hardest part for us is helping people realize this is not a traditional mall," Holder said. "This is not a mall in the practical sense. How do we make certain those visitors, by the time they get to town, learn about all the other things to do in the region."