We have only a handful of hotel rooms. Our commerce districts are relatively small and often overlooked. But Putnam County has a vast ecological, historical and cultural resource within commutation distance of New York City, potentially making us an ideal ecotourism destination for the millions of people to our south.
Given the undeveloped nature of our county, a form of tourism which focuses on the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas would seem very appealing. According to the World Tourism Organization, ecotourism is often designed around small group tours, contains educational and interpretation features, and usually involves small, locally owned businesses as service providers. It minimizes negative impacts on the natural and socio-cultural environment. It supports the maintenance of natural areas which are used as ecotourism attractions and increases awareness towards the conservation of natural and cultural assets, among local residents and tourists alike.
This sounds very attractive for Putnam County, a type of tourism which can take full advantage of our natural resources and beauty, highlight our cultural centers and historic artifacts, and support our family owned, small business community which is the majority of our local economy. We could properly integrate the ecotourism concept with our existing infrastructure and fully utilize our trails, commuter rail networks, area roadways and any future development (i.e. hotels, shopping complexes, etc) to better facilitate the ecotourism experience for visitors.
The business community will also have to adapt to take full advantage of this concept. Business advertising, for example, might start saying things like “convenient access to trail system”, “located close to scenic reservoir views” or “adjacent to monastery” in order to convey the proper message to attract this type of tourist. We need to find more ways to make people choose Putnam, and this may just be the way to do it!
-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce