The Finger Lakes tourism industry is largely dependent on wine. Millions of people visit the region each year to tour dozens of wineries and experience the Finger Lakes.
According to the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance in 2019 5.56 million people visited the region, of these 4.86 million traveled exclusively for leisure activities, they spent $2.4 billion dollars. In 2019 41% of leisure visitors visited a winery. Chart
- General Relaxation 36%
- Visit a winery 22%
- Attend a festival/event 16%
- A romantic getaway 8%
- Shopping 5%
- Other 11%
These numbers are based on pre-covid tourism rates. This spring Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a bill to invest in the tourism and recreation industry in the finger lakes region. This bill included funding for winery’s to recover from COVID impacts. Bar attendant Chrissy Mchale has worked at Belhurst Castle in the Finger Lakes for over a decade. She witnessed the industry change during and post-COVID.
“Since fully reopening (after COVID) we have been full bore ahead, this year we are ahead of pre-COVID numbers,” Mchale said.
Wineries account for a majority of tourism in the Finger Lakes Region. Wineries take up over 11,000 acres of land in the Finger Lakes. Many wineries have offer attractions such as, hiking, hotels, and proximity to the lakes that visitors take advantage of even of they are not drawn to the area exclusively for wine. Patrick Moran and his wife visit the Finger Lakes each fall for the Naples Grape Festival.
“We love coming out and staying on the lake (Canandaigua). We can stay at the vineyard and they have restaurants and all kinds of activities we can do. We go to the festival and take the boat out if the weathers good,” Moran said.
Vineyards have expanded from being exclusively for wine enthusiasts. They now have a range of activities and events. Expanding to incorporate more than traditional winery activities has made the region more appealing to the 36% of tourists who visit for other recreation activities.
Belhurst Castle is located on Seneca Lake and offers three lodging options, three dinning options, a spa, and special events such as weddings on top of being a fully functioning winery. Its peak season is the harvest season, the fall.
“It is a magical area. I was born and raised here, we are ready to see the new, the industry is a family, it is a great place to be right now with everything new. We want people to leave here with everything we have every day. I think that it is awesome and we get excited to see people falling in love with the area that we were born and raised in,” Mchale said.
Three Brothers Winery is located on the oppisite side of Seneca Lake. Three Brothers offers a winery, tasting room, brewery, and cafe. Three Brothers hosts many events both public and private. It hosts food trucks and live music open to all customers as well as private weddings and other events. Like Belhurst Castle their peak season is also the fall. It is a close knit environment, Emily Lewis has worked there for 11 years.
“We are starting to pick up from COVID, last summer was very busy because people really just wanted to get out. We all learn from each other and grow and also it’s really involved and really has a family feel. What we have done has really evolved from when I started. People are excited for the direction that things are going. Our brewery has really grown so I think that craft beer and ciders have really become a big thing,” Lewis said.
Finger Lakes Wineries are influenced by trends in the tourism industry. Tourism in the region is influenced by wineries. Both industries are dependent on each other.