BY ERIKA NORTON

Hotels are popping up all over Orange County, a sign that the tourism industry in the Hudson Valley region is thriving.

Within the county, two hotels have recently opened in Wallkill and Newburgh, two are planned to open in Wallkill and Wawayanda within the next few months, and several are under construction.

Plus, a number of hotel projects are in the proposal stage, including three in Goshen, the site of the proposed Legoland New York theme park.


To break it down, there are approximately 3,371 rooms available in Orange County as of this month, with 364 rooms being constructed and an additional 625 rooms proposed.

That doesn't include bed and breakfasts, of which there are 24 in the county.

The surge in hotels is in response to both county tourism spending and occupancy sales tax revenue, both of which have increased over the last few years, according to Susan Hawvermale, the director of Orange County Tourism.

Occupancy sales tax revenue increased nine percent from 2015 ($3.2 million) to 2016 ($3.498 million).

On average, visitors spend $100 during a day trip to Orange County, but if visitors stay overnight, they spend four times as much as they would if they were just visiting for the day, according to Hawvermale. Because of this, a major goal of the county tourism department is to get visitors to stay over.

“We have some of the biggest attractions outside of New York City here in New York State,” Hawvermale said. “We really have a lot to come and see, and my feeling is that yes, we can accommodate these hotels and it's going to create more interest for coming to Orange County.”

The attractionsSome of the most popular attractions in demand by tourists include the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville and the newly expanded Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley.

Along with longtime favorites like the Warwick Valley Winery and Brotherhood Winery, dubbed the oldest winery in America, the Orange County region has added a number of other destination cideries and wineries, including the Angry Orchard facility in Walden.

“The craft beverage movement has exploded here in New York State, and we have quite a few of those facilities for people to go and visit and go to the tasting rooms and things like that,” Hawvermale said. “But Angry Orchard putting there only open-to-the-public facility in Orange County has been a huge draw for tourists coming to this area.”

WeekendersA trend growing in popularity in the area is visitors coming up from New York City for the weekend or for the day, according to Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership.

“People have a tendency to travel one- or two-day trips or weekend trips out of the city where they can get out a day or two and then get back in time for work,” Halahan said. “So we've become very popular with that crowd.”

In Tuxedo and Sloatsburg, developer Michael Bruno is hoping to capitalize on this crowd with an expansive revitalization project. Included in the project will be a market, a bike shop, a restaurant, a coffeehouse cafe, a small wedding chapel, an antique shop and a hotel.

In Sloatsburg, three Victorian-style houses along Route 17 will be converted into a 22-room hotel, expected to be done early this year. Further north along Route 17 in Tuxedo, the old IGA building will become the Tuxedo Market, which will have lodging upstairs for about 28 people, expected to open this summer.

With the two towns only about an hour from New York City, surrounded by scenic parkland, near the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets and relatively close to the Storm King Art Center, Bruno sees both Tuxedo and Sloatsburg becoming popular destinations for weekend trips.

Expected growthLooking ahead, a major tourist attraction will be coming in 2019 just north of Orange County — the Montreign Resort Casino, recently rebranded as Resorts World in Sullivan County. The casino will include a five-diamond, 18-story resort hotel, an indoor water park, a golf course, and a nightclub, along with various restaurants and shops.

Looking even further ahead, if approved, the $500 million Legoland New York theme park in the Town of Goshen would open no earlier than late 2018. Along with the amusement park — projected to attract 2.2 million visitors per year — there would be a 250-room hotel and entertainment space.

“I think with the casino anchoring the Sullivan County side and the expansion in the Woodbury Commons with the promise of Legoland right in the middle,” Halahan said. “We've just seen an increase in hotels that are under construction or planned to be built.”

Infrastructure improvementsTo accommodate more visitors, some infrastructure changes are being made in the county. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to accelerate a $150 million project that would reconstruct the Woodbury Interstate 87 Interchange at Exit 131. With an increase in traffic to the Woodbury Commons and the prospect of Legoland New York, local officials called the announcement “well overdue.”

More recently, in his 2017 State of the County address, County Executive Steve Neuhaus mentioned the fact that Norwegian Airlines will begin to offer — for the first time — non-stop flights to Europe from the Stewart International Airport in Newburgh.

Legoland New York Head of Project & Community Relations Phil Royle also thinks having Norweigan Airlines will be beneficial for them.

“Bringing people in from Europe into what should become New York's fourth international airport is huge because, very honestly, if you fly out of JFK or any of the city airports, it's not fun,” Royle said. “So if we can get more people to fly into and out of Stewart, that's incredible for this area. They're bringing in a few 100 people just for plane maintenance and they're going to base a crew out of Stewart airport, and they're going to bring jobs so it is huge for tourism in this area.”

According to Halahan, the county area still has an abundance of affordable open space to go along with the three interstate highways.

“I don't think we've seen the end of it,” she said. “There's certainly not an oversaturation yet. And the rooms are being filled. The statistics prove that there still is room for growth.”