Sullivan County Basks In Tourism Boom

By Daniel Axelrod
The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In Sullivan County, residents have written a new tourism narrative. Out with the borscht belt resorts and boarding houses; in with the quaint and quirky, nature and nonconformists, fishing, foraging and farms.

The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.

Three years. Four inns. Two kids. My, how things have changed for Sims and Kirsten Foster.

Since 2014, the husband and wife team has opened four small Sullivan County hotels, with business booming, and birthed babies.

Both left lucrative careers in New York City — him as a vice president for an international hotel management company, her as an economist with the Federal Reserve — to open their inns.

But as much as the two early 40-somethings’ lives have changed, Sullivan County’s tourism market has transformed even more since its dark days in the 1990s.

Sullivan County’s visitor spending skyrocketed 37 percent to $419.2 million in 2016 from $388.3 million in 2015, according to a newly released report from the Oxford Economics company, which tracks New York tourism.

“Growing up, when I heard New York City residents, they were like: ‘Oh, I’m from the city and you’re country folk,’ and there was this ‘us and them’ attitude,” said Sims Foster, a Livingston Manor native. “Now, everyone wants to be from the country. Nothing makes our guests happier than to be confused with full-time locals.”

Hoteliers, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs like the Fosters are part of why Sullivan County’s tourism is growing, said Roberta Byron-Lockwood, president and CEO of the Sullivan Catskills tourism bureau.

They’re conjuring dreams of mountains and streams, rendering the Catskills as a hip, laid-back alternative to big city hustle and bustle, promoting trails over traffic to the Hamptons.

“The Catskills are the new Hamptons,” Byron-Lockwood said. “That’s how travel agencies and the public are discussing us.”

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