COVID-19 has made this summer very different from the past. Trips and activities were cancelled, so some people started to enjoy local alternatives that could be enjoyed while following the Governor’s guidelines. In Herkimer County, one business has had increased tourism despite the pandemic.

“We’re getting so many phone calls within an hour to an hour-and-a-half radius. People who’ve lived here for so many years who’ve never been here. I mean, if you have to have a silver lining in this pandemic. Terrible clouds. That’s what it is,” said Dr. Renee Scialdo-Shevat, owner of Herkimer Diamond Mines.

According to the Campgrounds of America, RV purchases have significantly increased.  And 60% of travelers see the importance of spending time outside. At the Herkimer County KOA, 18% of their normal market are international tourists, and obviously that couldn’t happen this year. Many travel restrictions are still in place, so residents are choosing to vacation at nearby campgrounds.  

“They’re buying more RVs or fifth wheels, which they’ve never driven before, and experiencing that maybe an hour away from home. And really revisiting and experiencing the outdoors. People are buying tubes and experiencing the West Canada Creek, and the majestic waterfront that we have here on the property,” Scialdo-Shevat said.

Right across the street is the Herkimer Diamond Mine resort. Since the pandemic, they’ve actually had more people coming in for a day-cation. The great thing is that they’ve always had social distancing practices in place for safety reasons for anyone mining.

“Just the experience of being with your family in an outdoor environment where you don’t have to worry about the social distancing, because we’ve been doing social distancing here at the mines for 40 years,” Scialdo-Shevat said. “It’s a natural habitat to social distance in. You don’t bring your hammers out to the mine and have someone right next to you, a foot away.”

However, there were some challenges. They’ve had to limit the number of people allowed in their campground and mines. They also closed their museum and cancelled a lot of annual events. Some of these changes have ended up being a success.

“We’ve never had outdoor dining at our restaurant. It has been so successful that we’re probably going to permanently have outdoor dining as we go into future seasons. We are putting out what we call an Amazing Race. With families, and they are just loving that opportunity.  It’s created such excitement,” said Scialdo-Shevat.

The KOA Campground and Herkimer Diamond Mines are both open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until November 1.