Manlius woman now chairs Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council

Carol Eaton of Fremont Village is New York state’s 2014 Outstanding Tourism Executive of the Year.

Carol Eaton of Fremont Village is New York state’s 2014 Outstanding Tourism Executive of the Year. Submitted photo

— In 2012, Central New York saw tourism increase by 3.5 percent, as visitors spent $764 million, including more than $100 million in sales tax. Tourism supports more than 16,500 jobs in Onondaga County. In 2013, in response to Syracuse University’s recent jump to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Visitors Bureau began marketing to sports fans in ACC cities

“The ACC has been huge for us,” Eaton said. She points out that, while Syracuse University sports remain the major draw, Syracuse also supports two top minor-league franchises -- baseball’s Syracuse Chiefs and hockey’s Syracuse Crunch. “That elevates the whole impression,” Eaton said. “We see Syracuse as having a small-town atmosphere with big city amenities and affordability. That makes us stand out.”

The Visitors Bureau has helped solidify Syracuse’s national reputation as a destination by supporting such annual events as the Syracuse Nationals vintage car weekend, the Syracuse Jazz Festival and Iron Man and Iron Girl athletic competitions. “This month we just signed a contract which will bring the Iron Man back to Syracuse for three more years,” Eaton reported. The men compete at Jamesville Beach, Pompey Hills and the city’s Inner Harbor. The Iron Girl will return to Oneida Shores for at least two more years.

“To book and rebook these major events drives the news around the country that Syracuse can accommodate and welcome those kind of groups,” Eaton said. “We’re part of CenterState CEO [Corporation for Economic Opportunity], so we coordinate with hotels and other businesses to make sure tourism functions as an economic development engine. It gives us a mark nationally.”

Eaton’s pleased with the drawing power of the Destiny USA mega-mall on the city’s north side. “Up to 25 percent of the sales Destiny USA are Canadian, so it continues to be a very important market for us,” she said.

“We’re very proud of Carol’s well-deserved achievement,” said SCVB President David Holder. “She’s a pivotal member of our team and always the voice of reason and integrity.”

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