Ithaca, N.Y. — The co-owner of the Greek Peak Mountain Resort told Syracuse.com today that he wasn’t happy with the Ithaca/Tompkins Visitors’ Bureau wildly popular joke about going to Florida because of our frigid temperatures.

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“We don’t say, ‘Go to Napa, screw the Cayuga wine country,’” Marc Stemerman, of Greek Peak, told Syracuse.com’s Rick Moriarty. Moriarty reported that “New York ski resort operators are mad as hell at the Ithaca tourism bureau.”

In case you missed the back story: On Sunday, VisitIthaca.com — which is run by the visitors’ bureau — posted a joke urging travelers to go to Florida instead of Ithaca.

“That’s it. We surrender. Go to Key West instead,” the message said. “Due to this ridiculously stupid weather, Ithaca invites you to visit The Keys this week.”

That got passed around on social media before exploding into a national news story on Monday and then an international story on Tuesday.

Despite the criticism from Greek Peak, the joke — and subsequent media attention — helped bring positive attention to Ithaca and Tompkins County, according to Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce President Jenn Tavares.

“I think the response has been incredible. It’s been overwhelmingly positive,” Tavares said.

Tavares acknowledged that she had heard that there were concerns from some ski operators in the area about the post.

“Certainly, we’re empathetic,” Tavares said. “But now we have people engaged.”

Tavares said people who had never heard of Ithaca had been calling both the chamber and the visitors’ bureau today after seeing the story.

Some were referred to the Corning Museum of Glass; some were introduced to Tompkins County for the first time; and some were even told about the opportunities for skiing in the region, according to Tavares.

Overall, she said that her impression is the response was “1 percent negative versus 99 percent positive.”

The visitors’ bureau chat traffic went from 13 a day before the joke to 372 a day, according to Tavares.

In today’s story, the Greek Peak co-owner told Syracuse.com: “To see (the bureau) promoting something else is nuts. Why would you encourage people to not come to New York State?”

Tavares, however, stressed that it was a joke and that she doesn’t believe it’s likely to hurt Ithaca. Instead, she said, the opposite is more likely true.

“If they were going to ski in the region, they’ll continue to do so,” Tavares said.

“Obviously, our goal is not to drive traffic to Key West instead of Ithaca … It’s gotten a lot of attention, not just for Ithaca but for the greater region as a whole.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.