Ithaca region’s beginnings spark business enthusiasm
With Cornell announcing a limited in-person start to the 2021 class, hotels and restaurants in Ithaca are optimistic about what this means for the local economy.
Typically, thousands of friends and family come to watch senior graduates walk across the Schoellkopf field stage, then pack the bars and restaurants downtown to celebrate – fueling the biggest touristy weekend. from the city. According to Thomas Knipe, deputy director of economic development for the city of Ithaca, the Cornell start weekend has always been the most important for local tourism.
Tim Mooney, a manager at Moosewood, a local vegan favorite, agreed.
“The degrees, especially Cornell’s, are pretty huge for us… [it] blast any other weekend out of the water, ”Mooney said.
According to Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, a nonprofit that supports the Ithaca business district, the local economy depends on the income of Cornell students during graduation as well as throughout the school year. ‘year.
Normally, the graduation period affects a large area with hotels in southern Pennsylvania sold out, said Muhammed Abdelrahim, general manager of Homewood Suites. Just one month after the graduation ceremony, most hotels in Ithaca will be full for graduation the following year.
In most cities, vendors see business increase dramatically from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, when families come from out of town. In Ithaca, the schedule is reversed because students, who account for a significant portion of local expenses, leave the city to join their families during the winter holidays.
“Start weekends are the equivalent of Christmas shopping season for many of our businesses,” Ferguson said.
This period is so important that restaurants and hotels are integrating it into their annual business model. According to Mooney, Mooseword is preparing for the Ithaca graduation events by training and hiring more staff, to ensure that enough people will be available for the big event.
Moosewood and other popular restaurants find themselves fully booked months before graduation. Graduation income is essential to recover training costs, fund improvements and restaurant expenses each year.
Ithaca College, which typically graduates a week or two before Cornell, also creates increased traffic to local businesses, but remains pale compared to Cornell.
“We are seeing strong demand from Ithaca University, but not as much as from Cornell,” said Abdelrahim.
Mooney said business at his restaurant is much higher than an average weekend, but Cornell graduation is “a bigger chunk of the income.”
Neither Mooney nor Abdelrahim were concerned that Cornell’s debut would lead to an increase in local COVID cases, saying they believed the local health department and the University were well equipped to handle visitors.
“With the record Cornell has had so far with COVID, I trust them,” Mooney said.
Even before President Martha Pollack announced to allow guests to begin, Abdelrahim noticed more student families were coming to town this semester, compared to Spring and Fall 2020. He attributes this to testing requirements. relaxed for travelers arriving in New York State, and the University’s policy against off-campus travel. Specifically, he said the move-in and Easter weekend, normally busy weeks for the hotel, were closer to normal than last year.
Mooney agreed with Abdelrahiim, saying he had also received numerous calls from parents hoping to make reservations for graduation weekend.
Although visitors are returning, businesses are still required to meet limited capacity restrictions. Parents may be disappointed when they come to see their graduate child, but cannot take them out to dinner.
“We ask that you enjoy our community in a spirit of flexibility,” Ferguson wrote to The Sun. “Enjoy our beauty and our hospitality. But remember we are still coming out of this global pandemic and we are still operating below 100%. ”