It almost goes without saying.
“Anecdotally, we all know the impact of horse racing and some of the other activities that take place here in Saratoga County and Saratoga Springs," said Marty Vanags, president of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership (SCPP), an economic development agency.
New data assembled by SCPP further emphasizes how each summer's Saratoga Race Course meet and the tourism industry as a whole are key pillars of the local economy.
“When we see the numbers, it is exactly what you are thinking. The numbers are big and they are important,” Vanags said.
Vanags presented the organization's inaugural Hospitality & Tourism Index to a gathering of the county's business leaders Wednesday afternoon. Across the county, he says tourism is responsible for almost 11,000 jobs and an economic impact of $978 million.
“If it was substantially reduced or went away, it would have a huge impact. It is like having the major mills or major industry from years ago shut down and move," Vanags said.
Participating in the presentation was New York Racing Association President and CEO David O'Rourke.
"We see Saratoga as sort of a foundation, an engine driving," O’Rourke said, who was named to NYRA’s top spot less than a year ago.
The numbers show the annual economic impact of Saratoga's racing season approaches $250 million. With a paid attendance surpassing one million people each of the past five years, it also accounts for more than half of the Capital Region's guests traveling from outside the area.
“Saratoga, it’s about the experience and everything,” O’Rourke said. “The way the restaurants work, the ancillary things, the historical, the battlefield, it all works together so yes, we are at minimum codependent.”
Record-setting wagering at the track and an 89 percent increase in hospitality and tourism wages over the past 20 years paint a rosy picture, but there are also challenges like rising healthcare costs and a shortage of workers.
“That is all anyone is talking about; workforce, workforce, workforce,” Vanags said.
“We are spread very thin right now,” said Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau President Darryl Leggieri. “It’s a real issue.
By having a clear understanding of the numbers, Vanags believes the local business community is better positioned to address the issues and capitalize on the growth.
“Horse racing and tourism have flourished here in this county and can continue to flourish but again,” Vanags said. “Like any industry, you do not want to rely on one thing, so you try to diversify that.”