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Holiday caps a hot season in the Catskills

Holiday caps a hot season in the Catskills

The Times Herald Record, Tuesday, September 6, 1988, by Douglas Cunningham, Staff Writer

MONTICELLO - Like an annual migration, the hordes of visitors that packed the big Catskills hotels of Sullivan and Ulster counties in July and August have left, after what resort operators say has been one of their busiest summers.

Labor Day marks the traditional end to the summer season, during which the dozen or so big hotels fill their rooms with the "retail trade" of individual families, instead of the convention guests or senior citizens who will bolster business this fall.

Paul Carlucci, vice president and general manager of the 217-room Villa Roma Resort & Country Club in Callicoon, said he noticed a resurgence of interest in the Catskills, expemplified by such nostalgic movies as "Dirty Dancing".

"I'd say August was probably 10 to 15 percent better than last year," Carluccy said. "I believe everybody had a good summer."

At South Fallsburg's 320-room Raleigh Hotel, the Labor Day weekend sold out two weeks in advance - well ahead of normal bookins - said Ellen Halbert, one of the owners.

"We're very pleased with this summer," she said. "August was extremely heavily booked. We've been sold out every weekend."

At The Pines, a 424-room South Fallsburg resort, Vice President Cliff Ehrlich agreed that business had been good.

"Our entire summer was the best summer we've ever had," said Ehrlich. "Right now, if you came over here, you'd see us dancing on the desks. We were very, very pleased."

The 1,261-room Concord Resort Hotel attracted a number of new, young customers - especially golf and sporting enthusiasts, said spokesman Michael J. Hall. The resort also draws a number of Japanese tourists, especially those attracted to golf or tennis, he said.

"Last weekend (Aug. 27, which was a singles weekend, was thoroughly sold out," Hall said. "There wasn't a room to be had in the place."

The hotels draw most of their business from the New York City metropolitan area. The hotels are the linchpin of the tourism trade in Sullivan County, and they also pump dollars through Ulster County, where tourism ranks third in the economy.

Other tourism-related businesses also reported a successful summer. In western Sullivan County, canoe liveries along the Delaware River drew thousands of people each weekend.

At Lander's River Trips in Narrowsburg, Rick Lander said business increased from last year, especially in August. Like others, he cited the periods of stifling hot weather as a boon to business.

"I think the hot weather burned them out of the city," he said. "I do think they beaches had an effect, at least in our business."

As for the resort trade, despite their enthusiasm about business in general, the hotels typically refuse to talk about the specifics of occupancy figures or revenues. Most of the hotels are closely-held, family businesses, often into the third generation of ownership.

John Behuniak, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Economic Development, said the Catskills saw an increase in business this summer, as did the rest of the state.

A survey of resorts and motels in the Catskills found that 19 percent reported business was "much above" last year through the July 4 weekend, Behuniak said. Thirty-one percent said business was "above" last year's pace. Twenty-five percent termed business this year "average" and another 25 percent rated it "below average".

Occupancy figures for the Catskills region support the view that business increased, Behuniak said. For the Memorial Day and July 4 weekends, Catskills resorts and motels reported occupancy at 97.9 percent this year, up from last year's 94.9 percent.

Resort managers also said their industry is healthy, despite financial problems at Brown's Resort Hotel, which is involved in a voluntary bankruptcy proceeding.

In fact, Carlucci, who is also president of the Catskills Resort Association, said he expects that the 570-room Brown's will rebound from its difficulties. Brown's filed in July for bankruptcy protection from its creditors, listing debts of $11.7 million and assets of $21.5 million.

"All things considered, it went rather well, said Bruce Turiansky, president of Brown's in Loch Sheldrake. "I can't tell you it was a sellout, but considering all of the adverse publicity, we were very pleased with it (the summer)."

Another resort, Grossinger's Hotel and Country Club in Liberty, remained closed for a third summer for renovations. Carlucci said the continued work there is a sign the hotel's new owners are committed to the Catskills market.

Bernard Roth, Grossinger's general manager, said the hotel will reopen just before the Passover holiday in the spring of 1989. The hotel is putting $30 million into renovations and new construction, he said.

The hotel will be able to finish most of the construction work before next year's opening, when about 400 rooms will be ready. The completed hotel will have 506 rooms.

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A second incomplete article on the page below reads:

"... renovations on the 300-room Grossinger's Hotel and property are slated to begin in April, said the new owners. Grossinger's Associates expects to close on the mortgage for the improvements in April, said Mr. Frenkel, adding that a construction contract for the project is currently under review. George A Fuller Company, a nationally known contractor, is under consideration for the work while two banks - one from Japan and another from the United Kingdom - are involved in the mortgage negotiations."

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