Daily Freeman logo By JONATHAN MENT Freeman staff The Catskills and Hudson Valley could see a boost in tourism from travelers with an increased fear of flying or the desire to stay closer to home since the Sept. 11 attacks and the ensuing war. “I believe tourism is going to be strong,” said Peter Carofano, director of Ulster County Tourism. “I don’t know what the duration of the strikes overseas is going to be, but it keeps people close to home.” Carofano said the internal market is definitely down, but people who would have gone out of the area by plane have stayed here. “So it’s somewhat balanced off,” he said. Said Karen Woods, executive director of Dutchess County Tourism, “What we’re hearing from the individuals or families that call is that they’re not traveling as far. They’re not taking those exotic international vacations by plane. They’re traveling by car. They’re staying in that 300- to 400-mile radius from home.” Ilene Marder, spokeswoman for the Emerson Inn & Spa, said, “It’s as if we’re back in the 1930’s, before jet travel and air conditioning.” The inn, normally busy through the end of September, has been “absolutely packed,” Marder said. “What we find since Sept. 11 is people have been wanting to get out of the city for just a breath of fresh air.” Said Woods, “People seem to be more stressed out and they’re saying, I just need to get out of New York City for the weekend and I want to come up to Dutchess County or the Hudson Valley. They’re looking for that serene quiet time to spend with the family.” Caylin Sanders, founder and President of Escapemaker.com, a Web site designed to help New York City residents plan day trips and weekend getaways, said the number of visitors to the site is up dramatically. “Since this happened we’ve seen a tremendous increase in the number of members that create itineraries for themselves: Places, phone numbers, things that look interesting,” Sanders said. “We used to average two or three per day. In the past month, it’s more like seven to ten.” Many travelers choose the state Thruway as their means of escape, and some get off at Exit 21 near the offices of the Greene County Promotion Department. C. Kerk Moore, county promotion director, said visitors started arriving immediately after the attacks. Most were looking for something to do rather than someplace quiet to do nothing, he said. “The day after, a couple from the city came in,” said Marge Stabile, a tour group coordinator with the Greene County Promotion Department. “She got the last elevator down from the 96th floor, I think, of the second tower. She and her husband both worked there and got out.” Said Moore, “There isn’t a line at the door, by any means. But they say, “We just needed to get away.” So that’s what they do.” Most visitors are looking for something to do, he added. That isn’t always the case in Dutchess County, where, Woods said, callers were looking for someplace out of the way where they could unwind. They’ll say, “Is there an out-of-the-way place or a small bed and breakfast where I can relax?” Woods said. But that’s not universal. “There was one call that I happened to take myself.” Woods said. “She and her husband canceled their trip to Spain. She said she just decided she wanted to go to New York and support tourism. She wanted to know where she could spend 10 to 12 days?We gave her an itinerary in the Hudson Valley for three or four days up to the Adirondacks, the Finger Lakes and back.” Woods said guest room occupancy was holding steady this month, but what November and December will bring is anyone’s guess. Business travel has been down since the beginning of the year. There’s a nagging concern in the industry that efforts to promote the scenic upstate could be viewed as ambulance-chasing tactics designed to capitalize on the disaster and its aftermath. But for those in the industry, promoting travel and welcoming visitors is a year-round affair. Sanders said Escapemaker.com was in the middle of a marketing push around the time of the attacks. Ulster County had been preparing a roughly $35,000 radio and television ad campaign to promote the county’s many offerings. Moore said Greene County’s core audience has always been New York and New Jersey. All are stepping up efforts, at least a little. Ulster County added several radio spots to its advertising campaign, Carofano said. “Based on talks I’ve had with properties around the county, although some business was lost, most of that was predominately corporate business,” Carofano said. “The transient business has made up for that and then some. I can see that from the ads we’ve placed in metro New York on television and radio we’ve got a lot of responses. We’ve been very careful to be politically correct. We don’t want to seem like fortune hunters and it seems to be working out. For really nearby travel, Escapemaker.com is drawing visitors to the “Hometown Havens” area of its Web site. That section features Manhattan hotels. “It’s sort of getting away without getting away,” Sanders said. In spite of increased travel observed elsewhere, a spokesman at the Automobile Association of America tells a slightly different story. The association is the nation’s largest leisure travel agency, according to Robert Sinclair, manager of public relations. “In the travel department, they say their business was down maybe 30 to 40 percent (two weeks after the attacks).” A branch manager at the association’s Lincoln Center branch told Sinclair business was slower than usual for the post-summer season. “They get a lot of requests for the fall foliage tour, but that has fallen off markedly,” Sinclair said. Stabile said only one visitor, so far, has been irate. “(That’s) because he was supposed to go to Hawaii and ended up here instead,” she said. Some visitors to the region may arrive via ground-based public transportation such as Metro-North, Trailways and Amtrak. “Generally we’re seen an 8 to 12 percent increase (in riders), and in the Northeast corridor about 10 percent,” said Karen Dunn, an Amtrak spokeswoman. “We’re talking to people who are in the stations or on the trains who have clearly never been on them before.” Dunn said Amtrak’s increased ridership is due to “a combination of a fear of flying, fewer available flights and people who don’t want to travel far from home.” The rail carrier had a schedule change planned for Sept. 30, adding additional trains between Boston and New York, and Washington, D.C., and New York. It also added an additional 608 seats to the originally planned expansion. Amtrak changed some security practices nationwide, including suspension of onboard ticket purchases and requiring photo identification for buyers in the terminal. “What we want to know is who is on board the train before they pull out of the station,” Dunn said. Less than a month after the attacks, tourism professionals from across the state gathered on Long Island for an industry conference. “The mood was stronger than ever,” said Karen Heroy, spokeswoman for the Hudson Valley Tourism Development Council. “The focus is on rebuilding and offering a place outside of the city just to get a change of scenery,” Heroy said. “Our other focus is to market the Hudson valley as a National Heritage Area. This is a pretty recent designation by the federal government. We got the designation in 1996 and a management plan is in the works.”