LAKE GEORGE - Bienvenue. That's what the contingent at the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitor's Bureau (CVB) was saying April 1-3 at its vendor table during the National Women's Show in Montreal.
Dubbed "The ultimate girl's day out," Lake George was well represented at the show by Janice Fox, Christine Molella and Michael Consuelo, according to Chamber Executive Director Luisa Craige-Sherman. This Adirondack resort village was one of about 300 exhibitors showcasing their wares among the food and wine, cooking demos, celebrities, health and wellness products, fashion shows and home renovation ideas. Only Lake George wasn't offering free makeovers, it was selling itself as a travel destination for Canadian women.
"The Montreal show was a huge hit," Craige-Sherman said in an April 4 e-mail. "Our guides and information flew off the table."
When it comes to attracting Canadian tourists, Lake George Chamber officials have taken a proactive approach to marketing the southern Warren County region, from travel shows and discount cards to Canadian-friendly mascots and a bilingual (English and French) staff and Web site.
The Montreal show was a typical marketing event for the Chamber and only one of several shows the staff attends each year, Craige-Sherman said in a sit-down interview April 1.
"They will be touting the Lake George area and all the things there is to do here," she said.
Such was the case when the Chamber sent representatives to Ontario last October for the annual Toronto Ski, Snowboard & Travel Show and when Craige-Sherman attended the Canadian Snowbird Association's annual Snowbird Extravaganza in January in Florida.
Canadians traveling south from Quebec have a straight shot at the Lake George region by way of Interstate-87, the Adirondack Northway.
On its Web site - lakegeorgechamber.com - the Chamber advertises Lake George with this invitation, "Our 'Queen of the American Lakes' can be your jewel of a vacation playground with an overabundance of things to do for all ages ... or a quiet respite on your own personal island!"
Click the Canadian flag on the top right of the Web pages and the text turns from English to French, courtesy of Google Translate. A "three-hour drive from Montreal" instantly turns into "une des trois heures de route facile de Montr al."
And French-speaking Canadians visiting Lake George can stop by the Chamber office on Route 9 to pick up brochures and speak to CVB Membership Sales Coordinator Sue Scott Parker, who is fluent in French and routinely welcomes Francophones (as well as Anglophones) to Lake George.
On the streets of Lake George, especially at the downtown Visitors' Center, tourists may see the two Chamber mascots welcoming Canadians during the summer. Georgie - the big green guy- is the Lake George Lake Monster and wears a white shirt that says, "Welcome Canadian Visitors!" And there is Jacque - a red Canadian maple leaf head with bright white eyes and a huge smile - who wears a black tuxedo. The two mascots can sometimes be seen together at special events or just roaming the streets during the busy season.
With a strong Canadian economy, the push to market Lake George to our neighbors in the north was a no-brainer for the Chamber.
"It's at least 20 to 25 percent of our market," Craige-Sherman said.
There are more than 4,000 Canadians in the Chamber's database, and they receive regular e-mail newsletters about travel deals and events in the Lake George region. Those names came from people who signed up for the Chamber's popular Canadian Bienvenue Discount Card program. Travelers who sign up must prove their Canadian citizenship. Then they get a discount card, which gives them discounts at participating businesses, including 14 accommodations, eight attractions, five restaurants and two gift shops.
Craige-Sherman encourages more local businesses sign up for the program as a way to entice Canadian customers, and she said they should train their front desk staff about the program. Canadians can sign up online at the Chamber's Web site.
"People are always looking for deals," she said.