A discussion highlighted what’s on the minds of those in the Finger Lakes tourism industry

GENEVA — Confidence is high in the Finger Lakes tourism industry, though not without worry about environmental threats and other concerns.

Three professionals in local tourism shared their take Thursday on what is happening based on key points revealed in a recent survey by DestinationFLX. Michael Mills, founder of the DestinationFLX promotional/event platform, hosted the panel with about 25 guests attending the event held at Left Bank in Geneva.

“Around the world, people know the Finger Lakes,” said Ethan Fogg, executive director of the Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce and one of the panelists. Other panelists were Kim Aliperti, co-owner of Billsboro Winery, and Erica Paolicelli, co-owner of Three Brothers Winery and founder of Tenacious We Podcast. The panelists talked about recognition the region has received through numerous awards for its food and beverage businesses and other hospitality offerings. The beauty, affordability and friendliness of the region were also noted as strongpoints.

“We play up our affordability,” said Paolicelli, talking about the location of the Finger Lakes in proximity to New York City and other major hubs where it costs more to vacation. Aliperti said she has experienced first-hand, and hears from patrons, about the friendliness of the Finger Lakes region where business owners are genuinely interested in their customers and enjoy producing and selling their products.

This past February, DestinationFLX distributed a nine-question survey to 250 local business owners representing service providers in beverage, lodging, restaurant, outdoor activity and related businesses. There were 42 responses (roughly 17 percent) representing the marketplace. Though not a comprehensive economic forecast, the numbers “tell a powerful story of business confidence and looming concerns,” said Mills.

According to the survey, nearly 97 percent of participating businesses expect the regional economy to stay the same or improve — with 66 percent of that group optimistic it will improve.

Concerns centered on local competition, a possible downturn in the economy, potential actions by New York state making it more costly and difficult to do business, and environmental hazards.

The panelists agreed that the growing number of wineries, breweries and similar attractions were largely positive because they bring more visitors to the region as a whole. Paolicelli mentioned concerns about a proposed excise tax and a farm labor bill that would both prove extremely costly.

The panel talked about the negative impact of landfills in the region, specifically the stench coming from the Ontario County landfill. The panelists urged people to stand up against these threats for the sake of the economy and the environment.