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“Ithaca Loves Teachers Program” attracts some 5,000 tourists

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This year’s “Ithaca Loves Teachers Program,” an initiative that invites teachers to visit Ithaca, brought in an estimated five thousand tourists, attracting business during one of the slowest times of the year.

Created seven years ago, the program offers NY State teachers great deals at hotels, restaurants, local shops, and attractions in the Ithaca area. The deals are offered during the school break knowns as winter recess, which lasted from February 15th to 24th this year.“Basically the entire city of Ithaca goes on sale,” Jodi LaPierre, of the Ithaca Visitors’ Bureau, said.Last year the initiative brought an estimated $714,000 to the local economy, with approximately 5,500 teachers and their families taking part in the program. Numbers this year are expected to be lower, because many schools shortened winter recess, said LaPeirre.This is a great help for the local economy during what is traditional a very slow time of the year, said LaPierre.

Kevin Young, owner of the Inn on Columbia, has been part of this program since it began, but he hasn’t seen very much business.

“It’s not a particularly successful program for us, but you know, we’re happy to participate if it helps the general good as well,” Young said.

A variety of local businesses participate in the program, offering over 350 deals. Deals are catered to both teachers carrying VIT (Very Important Teacher) passes and their friends and families holding “Teacher’s Pet”

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Rhonda Mapes, whose husband works at Moravia Junior High School in Moravia, NY, enjoyed sweet treats with her daughter at Life’s So Sweet in downtown Ithaca on Saturday as part of the Ithaca Loves Teachers program.

“We have gotten a lot of use out of the coupons for Ithaca Loves Teachers week,” Mapes said. “We’ve been to Maxie’s, Boatyard, Gimme Coffee, Ithaca Coffee. It’s really nice, we really like it. We look forward to it every year.”

A resident of downtown Ithaca, Mapes also said that the program is beneficial to the Ithaca area community as a whole.

“The more people come from outlying areas, the more they’ll enjoy it because it’s quite fun,” Mapes said.

The program began when the visitor’s bureau wanted to find a way to attract visitors during the early part of February, which is typically a very slow season for local businesses. The idea to offer this deal for teachers fit very well with Ithaca’s personality.

“We are a community that is based on higher education…” said LaPierre. “[So] we decided to build this festival around public school employees to thank them.”

Since “Ithaca Loves Teachers” started, the number of tourists who visit the city thanks to program had nearly quadrupled, according to the statistics provided by the Ithaca Visiter’s Bureau.

“So the first year we had 1,500 combined [teachers and their traveling companions]…last year we had 5,500 combined, and this year our numbers in [on Friday] are at 4,500 but keep in mind we do have three days to go yet,” said LaPierre.

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