Discover Your True Story, with Kristen Jarnagin

Episode 167

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With more than 20 years of experience in the tourism and hospitality industry, Kristen Jarnagin oversees the official regional organization charged with furthering Long Island’s $6.1 billion tourism economy. A Long Island transplant from Arizona, Jarnagin’s vast knowledge of the tourism industry spans from state tourism marketing, branding a luxury resort and serving as a lobbyist for tourism advocacy. Kristen and her team at Discover Long Island work to promote a positive perception of Long Island across the globe, which draws lucrative visitors, stirs business attraction and drives economic development throughout the region. She’s twice been named one of the Top 50 Women in Business on Long Island and is a graduate from the acclaimed Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Her favorite pastime is discovering Long Island with her two daughters and reigniting the passion for this place we call home for Long Island natives. In this episode of Destination on the Left, Kristen Jarnagin, President and CEO of Discover Long Island, joins us to explain how she and her team captured Long Island’s true story. She discusses their latest work and shares advice for using creativity and collaboration to solve difficult marketing challenges.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Kristen’s journey into destination marketing
  • Advice for marketing a destination as an outsider
  • Why it is important to stay true to your own voice in destination marketing
  • How Kristen and her team at Discover Long Island are telling Long Island’s true story
  • The latest campaign by Discover Long Island and the inspiration behind it
  • Different ways Kristen has used creativity and collaboration to solve difficult marketing challenges

Discover Long Island

Kristen Jarnagin is the President and CEO of Discover Long Island, where she and her team work to promote a positive perception of Long Island across the globe. She may not be a New York native, but as an outsider, Kristen has taken a fresh perspective and a visitor’s lens to the marketing efforts of Discover Long Island. With experience in state tourism, hospitality, and the political sector, Kristen has seen almost every corner of the travel and tourism industry. She is a risk-taker and a talented marketer who is uncovering Long Island’s true story so the whole world can see it. On the latest episode of Destination on the Left, Kristen joins us to discuss her journey and talk about the art of collaboration and creativity in the travel and tourism industry.

What is Your Story?

It is easy to look at what other destinations are doing and think, “it worked for them; it will work for us too.” But Kristen believes the only way to achieve great success in destination marketing is to stay true to your voice. Long Island is different from every destination out there, so Discover Long Island put all of their energy into capturing that. To Kristen and her team, standing out means being themselves. And since Kristen is not a native, she sees the destination how a visitor would see it. You don’t have to redefine who you are, you just have to understand who you are. By listening to the community and articulating your destination’s true story, you can make an impact without reinventing the wheel.

Not Just a Destination

Kristen and her team are finally telling Discover Long Island’s true story in their latest campaign, based around the idea that Long Island is not just a place to visit; it is a community. The campaign captures the distinct flavor of Long Island, the accent, the proximity to New York City, and several other factors that make it a one-of-a-kind destination. Whether you are a foodie, a historian, a beach bum, or anything else, Long Island is not a place you go to ‘do,’ it is a place you go to ‘be.’ Chances are your destination also has an amazing story to tell, so go out and discover it; then tell it wholeheartedly with authenticity.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:24 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left and welcome to this week’s episode with another brilliant guest, Kristin Jaren. Again, president and CEO for discover long Island New York. As you may know, I am from upstate New York and whenever I get to talk with fellow tourism professionals from my home state, it is an awesome conversation. What you will find out about Kristin is that she is not a native new Yorker and that her outsider’s perspective has given her a fresh way to look at New York state tourism and discover long Island. In this conversation, we learn how taking risks and not being afraid can make a huge impact on the destination and a career for that matter. We also learned that successful collaborations come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in economic development, the communities you serve and neighboring destinations. Just to name a few, a little more about Kristin before we get started. She has more than 20 years of experience in the tourism and hospitality industry and in her current role she oversees the official regional organization charged with furthering long islands 6.1 [inaudible] billion dollar tourism economy, a long Island transplant from Arizona.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:37 Christine’s vast knowledge of the tourism industry spans from state tourism, marketing, branding, a luxury resort and serving as a lobbyist for the tourism advocacy. Kristen and her team at discover long Island work to promote a positive perception of long Island across the globe, which draws lucrative visitors, sisters, business attraction, and drives economic development throughout the region. She’s twice been named one of the top 50 women in business in long Island and is a graduate from the acclaimed Walter Cronkite school of journalism at Arizona state university. Her favorite pastime is discovering long Island with her two daughters and reigniting the passion for this place. She calls home for long Island natives. Now let’s get into the interview. Kristin, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m so excited to talk with you and to learn from you today, but before we dive into our questions, can you share a little bit about your story in your own words? I find it gives a lot more context to our conversation.

Kristen Jarnagin: 02:40 Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on your show today. I’m really excited to be here. And um, my career started many years ago. I’ve been in the industry for more than 20 years and I graduated from the Walter Cronkite school of journalism at Arizona state university. So I’m actually a girl and spent most of my career in Arizona. I started working at the Arizona office of tourism, um, as kind of a in the communications department as a specialist and worked my way up to the director of communications. Then I went on to work for a luxury resort, a Starwood resort, um, and did that for several years and had wonderful experiences and developing a brand new property and really kind of cut my teeth, um, from what was what I knew in destination marketing to really business and meeting marketing and also niche marketing. And then after several years doing that, I decided I wanted to do something a little bit more in depth.

Kristen Jarnagin: 03:42 And so I went to work for the trade organization, which at the time was multiple organizations managed by one, um, organization. I was the communications senior VP and then, um, became the lobbyist for the state of Arizona tourism, uh, after we had gone through several boycotts due to legislation and, um, and we ended up merging all of the state organizations into one unified, very strong voice for Arizona tourism. And, um, it was a great experience for me and then I loved it. But lobbying is not easy. And after a few years of doing that, it can be very disheartening. And, um, and it’s just, it’s just very grinding being in the political world. And I kind of wanted to get back to the fun part of destination marketing. So I knew that I wanted to go into a CVB role, something that I had not done yet before. And I started kind of putting my tentacles out there. And one day I heard about this job in New York on long Island and I had never been here. All I knew about it was that it was a beautiful beaches and it was connected to New York city and it seemed like, um, something that would be a really incredible challenge and opportunity for me. So I threw my hat in the ring and it was an eight month process and that was four years ago. So it’s been a wonderful experience.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:00 That’s amazing. And I’m listening to you talk about your background. Um, and, and because I’m in New York state and I’m familiar with some of the work that you’ve been doing in long Island, um, it’s no surprise to me that you have that mix in your background in terms of the state DMO and you know, the, the star war Starwood resort where you talked about understanding and getting hands on with business and meetings, marketing all the way to the trade organization and the, um, you know, the lobbying that you did. And to me that seems like such a great, um, experience added altogether for the role that you’re doing now.

Kristen Jarnagin: 05:36 Thank you. It really, I didn’t know where the road was taking me. You know, sometimes you just, you just do what you do next and you’re not really thinking of it. Um, but I, I couldn’t think of a better mix of skills and it has really served me well in my current role because you know, long Island, believe it, it looks small on a map but it’s actually quite large and diverse and operates much more like a state. Um, and you know, understanding the business and community and meeting side of things and then with the many, many political layers we have here as well as in New York state in general. You know, having that political background has been really instrumental.

Nicole Mahoney: 06:11 Yeah, I’m sure. I’m sure it has. I think that’s, um, it’s really awesome and, and you’re right, I think it is a great mix of skill sets. And I love this first question that I ask all my guests because no one really necessarily has that straight path to where it is that they are today. But I just love how kind of the journey brings you, you know, to where you are today. And, and when you look back and reflect on it, a lot of times you can see how it actually did one thing built on another and, and serves you for right where you are. So I think that’s really awesome.

Kristen Jarnagin: 06:41 Yeah. Thank you. And I tell people that all the time in their careers. You know, one of the things I’ve really done in my career is I’ve taken risks. I haven’t been afraid to try something that I’ve never done before. I’d never been in destination marketing. I had never worked for a resort and back then to become the, you know, director of PR usually came from another resort. Um, and you know, coming into a CVB at a CEO level and never having worked at a CVB. And the same with a lobbyist. I had never done that before. And I just feel passionate about this industry and I’ve never been afraid to try to pursue what I want to pursue.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:14 I think that’s really great. Yeah. Great advice. Um, to take risks and, and not to be afraid because fear really does stop us sometimes. Right? It’s the fear of the unknown or the fear of what might happen. And, um, and I think that’s just really, really wonderful advice.

Kristen Jarnagin: 07:30 Thank you.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:31 So, um, I want to get down to some of these questions. I love to focus on creativity and collaboration. A lot of the times we end up talking about both kind of simultaneously cause in our industry, you know, creativity and collaboration are everywhere. Um, but the, the first question that I like to ask is, um, thinking about the tourism and hospitality industry and how very competitive it is, um, and there’s so many choices out there that people have, not just for places to travel to, but also just demands on their time and ability to, you know, even take that break or, or take a trip. And so I’m wondering what you’ve done with discover long Island to really help long Island stand out from the crowd.

Kristen Jarnagin: 08:16 Yeah. It’s interesting you said, cause it, when I was looking at the questions, I first started talking mostly about collaboration initially. And then I’m like, wait, we’re going to talk about that later. So, but you’re right, they go hand in hand. Um, but I think that today especially, um, with the way that all kinds of marketing, all marketing is changing right now with all of the new media and the new generations coming into being our consumers that, yeah, you know, tourism marketing today, the only way to differentiate yourself is to be yourself and to be your authentic self and find out what your story is and what sets you apart. It’s a lot, you know, it’s very easy to see what is out there and successful and say, um, yeah, we should do that too. But really the only way to be successful is to have your true voice.

Kristen Jarnagin: 09:00 And so we spent a lot of time doing that. Not having been from long Island, being a transplant from across the country. The good news is, is that I see long Island, like a visitor would see it. I don’t, I didn’t know anything about it. I want to explore it. I see it for the beauty and challenges that we have. So I was really able to listen and listen to the community and see what, you know, the local feel about long Island and, and, and then see it from a business perspective to find out what our true story is. And, you know, we did a lot of research and we, um, it was a very long process, but we just launched our new campaign and our new campaign is about long Island. And I think art, our unique story is that we’re not just a destination to visit.

Kristen Jarnagin: 09:47 We’re a community. Long Island has a very distinct flavor and a very distinct feel. We have our own accent, right? Long Island, everybody knows when you’re from long Island. Um, and not everybody, not everybody has that. Not everybody has their own unique accent and our proximity to New York city. So we really dug in and we decided we’re not just a place where you can do things. We’re a place where you can be whatever it is that you want to be, whether you want to be a foodie or whether you want to be a beach bomb or be a historian. But you know, even more than that, we’re a community. While it is a really special, very tight knit community, and so you can be what you want to be, but you can also belong to this community and the unique people that we have here. And so our new campaign is belong on long Island and it really is built to transcend tourism and to talk about, you know, how businesses belong here and how the young people who are, you know, thinking about maybe leaving and going elsewhere, but you belong here. This is really part of your community. So, um, it’s really about just taking the time to find out what your story is and telling it wholeheartedly and with authenticity.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:02 Yeah, I think, um, I think that’s great. And I love how you have that perspective of the visitor. And I also, I especially love how you pointed out the accent because you’re here. I am an upstate New York and we have our own accent up here. As a matter of fact, I just interviewed someone from California the other day and he guessed, he actually guessed, he said, don’t tell me where you’re located. And he gets to Buffalo, which is close enough.

Kristen Jarnagin: 11:25 Yes, that was good.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:26 We’re in Rochester. So, you know, Buffalo, I thought it was a pretty good guest, but long Island definitely has its own accent. As an upstate new Yorker, we definitely know in the long Islanders are around. So that’s a lot of fun.

Kristen Jarnagin: 11:39 People shy away from it and I, you know, as a stereotype, but you know, when you come from a place that doesn’t have an accent, it really, it’s what makes traveling around the world fun as that. It’s different from where you’re from. It’s different from where you came from. And in my, when they come to visit, they love, we love to go to the bagel shop and we sit around and we just listen to everyone’s accents and New York attitudes and, and it’s something that makes us unique and special.

Nicole Mahoney: 12:03 Absolutely. I just love that. And so I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m curious though about the, the campaign that you’re launching and, um, you know, that they, the way you’re talking about long Island being a community, so how, how are you communicating that through your campaign? What, what are some of the elements that really kind of portray that?

Kristen Jarnagin: 12:23 Yeah, and again, it’s [inaudible] it’s the longing, right? It’s the longing for a place that you feel like you can be yourself. And so long Island is very diverse and we communicate that. You can see that through our visuals. It’s, yes, you have this surfer, but you also, you also have the families and we have a lot of different cultures and cultural backgrounds are here. And we tried to, you know, make sure that that’s, um, amplified through our campaign. We have an incredible LGBT community here. Um, we talk about, you know, you can see the firemen. We actually have the camera crew just happen to catch, uh, one of our oyster Bay firemen in his firetruck and he was waving at the crew. And that’s just, um, you know, long Island is like this. It’s this big Island, but it’s a mosaic that’s made up of so many very small communities that all have their own individual unique feel and flavor. And, um, and we try to communicate that. And I think that, you know, the way I know that it resonates well is because we show the video to long Island know, born and raised locals and they all say, Oh my God, I love it. I, that’s my favorite beach. Or I love that place. And, and when the locals really connect to our story, we know we’ve captured it.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:37 [inaudible] absolutely. That’s a, that’s a definite, um, good test market right there, especially when you’re trying to be true to yourself. Right. So I think that’s really awesome. So I want to change gears just a little bit because this is one of my favorite questions. This next one actually. Um, I just love the creativity that happens when we’re faced with a challenge or some sort of adversity. I, I think we’re at our creative best sometimes when we’re having to solve a problem or maybe that’s just my own personal, you know, I love to solve problems. So, um, but I’m curious if there is a challenge, uh, that might come to mind for you and then if you could share a creative solution, um, that you came up with to meet that challenge.

Kristen Jarnagin: 14:19 Yeah, of course. We have a couple of specific challenges here. I mean, one being lack of funding. Um, we are second only to New York city with the amount of travel spend that we generate on long Island. We were at six point $1 billion annual industry and uh, we, we see more than 10 million visitors a year. So you take that against any major metropolitan area in the country and we stack up and yet we are outspent by almost all of our New York peers. Um, I, I always get jealous and I tell my local community, I’m like, Niagara falls spends one and a half million more a year promoting Niagara falls and they have one attraction for the most part. And everyone in the world knows what it looks like. Um, whereas long Island, um, we have so many things to talk about and we’ve very limited budget.

Kristen Jarnagin: 15:09 Um, and, and that leads into our other big challenge is that we have so much to talk about and most people know that long Island is a place people have heard of it. Um, but most people have no idea. And I know I didn’t before I move here. What’s here? While Island is made up of two counties, there are two towns. There are multiple, um, villages, hamlets, they’re like 120 different communities that make up long Island. And so it’s very, it can be very fractured. And other than us, there’s really no one out there talking about our destination long Island where you’re from. Rochester. So everybody from Rochester is saying Rochester. When you say long Island, people are like, Oh, I’m in Huntington or Setauket or I live in the Hamptons, or I’m in, not even the Hamptons, but Bridgehampton West Hampton, East Hampton, South Hampton. I mean, so it can be, it’s been very fractured and parochial for many, many years.

Kristen Jarnagin: 16:03 So one of our biggest challenges was saying, we have to say long Island when we’re talking about the brand and then, you know, a rising tide lifts all ships. So I mean, that’s been a, it’s been a communications, you know, um, tool for me, when I left Arizona I said, you know, I’m going to go to long Island, promote tourism and my peers there were like long Island, New York [inaudible] they were like, no offense, but what’s there? And like the Hamptons and people, people are like, Oh, that’s where they are. I had no idea. And you know, most people across the country, they don’t know that the Hamptons are on long Islanders. Even in New York, there’s somewhere in the East coast near Martha’s vineyard and the Cape, you know, and, um, and that’s because we’re not saying Hamptons long Island, we’re not connecting to our iconic brands.

Kristen Jarnagin: 16:53 So that was big, big challenge that I recognized right away when spoke to the whole community, tried to educate people, even our airport on long Island, um, people always refer to it as Islip airport because it’s, it’s located in the town of Islip. And that the letters are ISP. And one of the first things we did is we said, I noticed on the reader boards when I would travel to and from, I was still moving. So I was traveling a lot. I would travel to and from and I was in Baltimore or Philadelphia and on their reader boards it would tell you all the places around the country that the flights were going to. It didn’t say long Island, it said Islip and no one. Most people have never heard of that. So just saying the long Island airport and in getting the reader boards changed and the major airports, you don’t have to change the three letter, three letter, call number, but you do have to change the branding and the way you speak about the destination.

Kristen Jarnagin: 17:44 And we’ve done a lot of that. Um, and then one of the things we did as a solution is, you know, I can tell you my, my aspect all the time anecdotally, but nothing stands up to data that I’m always at. I’m always a big nerd for as much data as I can get my hands on. So we had Longwoods international do a first of its kind perception study of our destination from not only a visitation but also what is your intent to move here? Would you live here? Would you move your business here? Cause that’s important to our community. So we partnered with the manufacturing consortium, our utility national grid, um, and several of the partners, the airport, our industrial park. And we did a national survey to say what is the perception of long Island? What do you know about it? What do you think about it? And it, and the data from that study has really helped to solidify and guide all of our efforts since then. And it gives us the foundation to say we need to say long Island, we need to be a region. And it’s, it’s, it’s second to no, nothing else that we do to try and just communicate our brand.

Nicole Mahoney: 18:49 Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. Which I’m being from New York state, I hadn’t really thought about, but you’re right, when you have so many, um, as you described, a mosaic right, of communities, um, all who are calling themselves the name of their community and not identifying as being part of the region. Um, that that really is a challenge.

Kristen Jarnagin: 19:09 It is. And, and, and just to give you an idea, sorry to interrupt Nicole, but one of the things is, and I tell my partners that I live in New York this all the time, so this won’t be a surprise, but I still have the challenge with our state branding. I love New York. If you watch any of the, I love New York commercials, watch them. The winter one right now we’ll say cradle of aviation, garden city, New York. The last one said Vanderbilt museum Centerport in New York. They never say long Island. And therefore the brand, you know that the perceptions that he showed that long Island had the number one name recognition of any of our competitive set even over San Diego, over Charleston. Um, I dunno what it is. Maybe it’s long Island, medium, long Island ice tea. I don’t know why, but everybody’s heard of it. But when it came to what do you know about it, it was little to nothing. So we have the name recognition and we should be capitalizing on it. But it is definitely a challenge we face every day.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:02 Absolutely. So you’ve talked a little bit about, um, ways that you are, you know, solving for that problem. Are there any others? You know, you talked about the, uh, the airport signage, which I think is, um, seems to me to be kind of a no brainer, right? We’ve got to change it from Islip too, but I’m sure that’s no easy task. Um, are there, uh, are there other things that you’ve been instituting to help change that?

Kristen Jarnagin: 20:28 Well, it’s just, it’s almost just really the narrative to be honest. So yeah, we’ve, the airport signage, it’s, it’s one of those things until we started saying long Island airport, everyone’s like, Oh, right. Of course we should say that. How would people know? And it’s just natural to assume that everyone knows about you and your hometown and where you live. But the reality is people don’t know. Um, and so changing the narrative and, and I face it every where I go. I just was at a, um, uh, [inaudible] presentation last week where I was talking about the brand and I revealed the perception study had had a PowerPoint with slides that showed you all the data, why we say long Island. Um, and one of the slides showed that 42% of the respondents had visited long Island. And then, and we had a bunch of other places on the East coast, you know, say, where have you visited?

Kristen Jarnagin: 21:11 And we threw in Nassau and Suffolk counties, which are the counties that make up long Island, just as almost like a trick question. The 42% had been to long Island, only 12% and 9% respectively had been to [inaudible] County. They don’t even know they’ve been here and they didn’t know which County they’re in. And that’s typical of the way a visitor. I understand. If you don’t often know what County you’re in, you know, the destination, I’m in the Adirondacks or I’m in the Catskills. Um, so it’s just trying to educate all the time. And I was showing this whole person, this presentation and as soon as I finished, I asked her questions and the first question was, what are you doing for the villages? I was like, okay. Again. Um, and that’s, it’s just a constant narrative to show that when we talk about long Island and we drive more eyeballs and more interest and more excitement to discover long Island, then everybody’s information is there. And that’s how people can really find out the intricacies of our destination and how they can experience our destination the best. But first of all, we have to drive them here.

Nicole Mahoney: 22:14 Yup, absolutely. And, and I’m curious, you mentioned another one of the challenges that you have is the lack of funding. Um, are there some creative solutions that you’ve come up with too? Try to maximize what you’re doing or, um, are, are, are there things that you can share with us that you’re doing along those lines as well?

Kristen Jarnagin: 22:33 Absolutely. I mean, the one thing is that, you know, you said earlier when you’re, when you’re, um, challenges like result in real creativity sometimes, right? And so when you’re very limited in funding, you have to be very creative and you have to be very strategic. So, you know, we have very limited funds. Our entire budget, you know, for long Island is, is less than less than most of our in-state competitors. Not to mention our competitors nationwide. We’re about half. And what we have to do then is we have to be strategic. So we do a lot of reasons search and then we track what we do. Um, we measure through different, um, technology platforms, anything we do digitally. Um, there’s a couple of different ways we use Arrivalist, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, um, where we track the cell phone and we can tell whether you saw our ads specifically and how long it took you to arrive at our destination and where you went.

Kristen Jarnagin: 23:28 Um, and then we also use a Dara. So we really track and measure everything that we do to say we spent $25,000 on this campaign. And it generated $75,000 conservatively in room revenue. So communicating what you’re doing and the impact is key. Mmm. Collaborating. So going back to the airport, one of the things we, you know, we did when we looked at our survey is it said our number one target demographic is who has the highest propensity to travel to long Island is probably from the, you know, East coast, the Northeast corridor. That is that because that’s the only place we’ve ever marketed. So we wanted to go into a new market. Uh, we knew that Washington D C um, that all the target demographics that we wanted to achieve, but we couldn’t afford to do it. So we partnered with long Island MacArthur airport on a campaign, um, cause they have daily flights into BWI.

Kristen Jarnagin: 24:22 So they wanted to read some market too, but didn’t have enough money. So we piled our, compiled our money, went into the market with a six week campaign with a new campaign called short flight long Island. And it was so, it won the U S travel award for the best marketing campaign in the country. Um, but more importantly for us, it, we did pre and post awareness surveys and it incredibly spiked to the awareness of our destination and the intent to travel. Um, and we’ve, this is the third year we’re, I’m re embarking on that campaign. It’s been so successful. Um, but we also looking at that, you know, success drives success. We partnered with, um, recently, just this last year with the long Island railroad and New York city. We did a try way barter, um, where we each traded $150,000 in assets. And so it was terrific. It allowed us all to use each other’s resources. And for us it allowed us to have a major campaign where we launched belong in Manhattan, a key market for us at zero cost. So we were able to go into New York city on kiosks and bus shelters for, for literally no dollars. And we’re doing that a lot. We’re partnering with the New York Islanders. Um, we look at ways to leverage every single dollar we have.

Nicole Mahoney: 25:37 Yeah, absolutely. And I think those are really awesome examples and, and I love how you gave a couple of different examples and how you went, you know, outside of maybe destination partners and went to the airport or to the long Island railroad. And I love that idea of doing a trade. That’s amazing.

Kristen Jarnagin: 25:55 Well, it was amazing and we’ve have such great partners here partnering with New York city and company and utilizing, you know, their incredible reach and our proximity to them. Um, it was just a natural fit and it had never been done before. Long Island in New York city had never established a partnership before and it’s because they were seen as a competitor and it just, I couldn’t believe it. And they’ve been such an incredible partner. And it’s a model now that the state is using, I’m NYC plus two, the expensive assessable to promote the whole state.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:25 Absolutely. Well. Yeah, I mean that’s one of the benefits for, you know, I’ll all the destinations throughout New York state is that we do have such a treasure in New York city in terms of, you know, the numbers of visitors that go there alone and trying to get those folks out into other parts of the state. I think that’s really awesome.

Kristen Jarnagin: 26:43 Yeah. It’s the number one destination in the world.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:45 Yeah. [inaudible] it all capitalized. I know, I know. Exactly. Um, so Kristen, now looking into the future, is there a project that you’re working on now that you’re particularly excited about?

Kristen Jarnagin: 26:58 There are a couple of things. Um, so, you know, I talked a little bit about the funding and how we’ve been creative with our funding, but one of the things that we’re working towards right now, and this could be a real, it’s a complete game changer for New York state tourism, and they’re called tourism improvement districts. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but it’s a different way to get funding because right now, you know, so many of us were funded by a tax on a hotel when a visitor stays at attacks. But because it’s a tax, the government, the local governments control that money. So when you stay on long Island for example, you pay 3%, but the counties take more than 80% of that money and they, you know, they put less than 20 back into tourism promotion and that can go away at any time.

Kristen Jarnagin: 27:43 And we’ve seen that in destinations nationally who’ve had their funding, you know, on the chopping block. So tourism improvement districts are something that we are advocating for state enabling legislation this year and they’re just like business improvement districts. Um, they’re locally assessed and locally controlled at the voluntary assessment on hotels. And it would be considered private dollars. That would be a dedicated funding stream collected and controlled by the industry, which would be, it would really set us up for the future to have control over what we want to do and say and, and to grow as we grow our, our destination. So we’re putting a lot of stock into that. Um, and the other thing is, you know, economic development making tourism part of the economic development, um, platforms. So just like I said, we’re, we’re a regional organization. We are one of the only regional organizations on long Island, most are countywide or town.

Kristen Jarnagin: 28:41 And that’s how our economic development organizations are. We have eight different industrial development associations on long Island and not one of them are saying long Island. They’re saying this County, that County, you know, Islip okay then. And they’re all doing a great job, but they don’t represent long Island, so that’s not, um, it’s on their wheelhouse. So one of the things we, we did with [inaudible] belong the new belong campaign. We wanted it to transcend tourism and talk about business belongs here, innovation belongs here, technology belongs here. And we’ve, for the first time ever collaborated with all eight ideas who are putting money behind our initiative to say, to utilize the belong campaign, to promote economic development for the region. And that’s really, I think the future of tourism is connecting tourism beyond just visitors who come in. Um, because you know, visitors, they tend to take a, a toll sometimes on local communities, especially small communities. But when you say these visitors could translate into businesses moving here and um, young people and young families moving to our destination, but they have to visit first, it all starts with a visit. And really connecting those dots, that’s when people start to really see the value in what we do is towards the marketers.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:03 Yeah, absolutely. And I, I couldn’t agree more. Um, we’ve been talking about that quite a bit. Um, you know, with different guests on the show, I think that you make such a good point. It’s such a good illustration that you have eight ideas on long Island and they all go by their, you know, County name or their community name or what, whatever their charter is. Right. And they’re not thinking about the overall brand. And I think your point is that as the destination marketer, you really are in charge of the brand and the brand transcends beyond tourism.

Kristen Jarnagin: 30:36 Absolutely, absolutely. And, and if, if you’re not promoting your brand and inviting people to experience your destination, you’re not even on the grid. I mean you’re, you don’t even know what calls you’re missing because companies might be looking to move, um, with access to New York city and, and, or want, you know, high tech corridors. And we have all of that here. I mean, we are the headquarters of Estee Lauder and cannon and you know, Valentine’s day is coming up. We have 1-800-FLOWERS based here, uh, where the second industrial largest industrial park in the country next only to Silicon Valley and no one is telling that story. So it’s a really incredible story to tell and it’s part of our total economic development makeup. And I think there’s a huge opportunity for all of us as tourism marketers too, to really connect those dots between how tourism impacts economic development and how they should be embracing our brand. And how we can help drive results for them.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:39 Absolutely. I think that’s fantastic. And I did want to back up to the tourism improvement district as well. Um, we have, uh, talked about that on this show several times, uh, as well. And we’ve actually interviewed, uh, Tiffany from [inaudible] has been on. And um, I’m curious about the tourism improvement district. Um, cause I know it’s really driven because it’s a voluntary, uh, okay, I forget what you called it. It’s not really a tax, but it’s voluntary assessment. Thank you. And, um, I’m curious about how your accommodations are embracing that and how you’ve, um, you know, gone about kind of getting them involved. Because as I understand it, it’s got to come kind of from the ground up.

Kristen Jarnagin: 32:23 It absolutely does. And the first tourism improvement district was founded in California by a group of hoteliers because they were tired of seeing, you know, dollars that they’re remitting and collecting go to every other aspect except for them. And the reason why tourism is funded, you know, by government agencies traditionally is because the local municipalities [inaudible] and coffers actually benefit from tourism revenues. Right. So, like last year, tourism generated more than $740 million in local and state taxes for this region. So that’s, that’s usually why people understand. And in the past people have understood and they reinvest those dollars into tourism promotion to bring more tourists, but that’s less and less being the case and people want to divert the dollars to, you know, infrastructure or whatever. Um, so the idea is that, you know, right now the biggest complaint from my hoteliers and my partners is that there’s remitting all of these dollars and they’re not seeing the benefits in return. Um, and they, they want us to be able to promote them more. They want to have us as a resource. They want us to go to these shows and bring them meetings and meeting planners. And we can only do so much with the dollars that we have. So a tourism improvement district as an assessment. The great thing is it’s a, it’s the hoteliers and the partners that are contributing to that assessment, they get to control how the dollars are used and make sure that the dollars actually benefit their business.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:54 Yeah, I think that, I think that’s great. And, and um, I would love to see that happen in New York state. And so it’s exciting to hear that, you know, that you’re working on that. I know there are other communities across the state who have been trying to work on that as well. So,

Kristen Jarnagin: 34:09 yeah, so we just, we just started, I know people have tried to do it individually before. We’ve tried to do it individually. So what we’re doing right now though is state enabling legislation. So all of my counterparts statewide, um, all the NYS demos have come together, including New York city who was thinking of doing one themselves. So everyone’s now banded together for this one issue to try and get state enabling legislation this session that would then allow each County to do it individually.

Nicole Mahoney: 34:37 Ah, that’s, that’s terrific.

Kristen Jarnagin: 34:39 It’s exciting. It’s the first time I think that everybody’s come together to advocate on one issue together. So it’s an exciting time to see all of New York state unify and come together under that one message.

Nicole Mahoney: 34:51 Absolutely. And, and I think it will make a huge difference. Um, you know, that, that you are coming together in that way. And it seems to me that if, if that legislation passes, then these tourism improvement districts will be able to come about a little bit quicker on the local level. Is that right?

Kristen Jarnagin: 35:09 Absolutely, because we, those are the tried it on the local level. It always falls apart with a state, you know, the home rule, people wanting state enabling legislation. So we decided this time not to go to the local level to go to the state first and then it allows the local communities to opt in if they want to. And if they don’t want to do it right now, you don’t have to, you don’t have to set up a tourism improvement district if it’s working for you now. But it gives the DMO the opportunity, let’s say five years from now. I mean is as incredible as governor Cuomo has been as our governor. And we’re so lucky to have such a tourism proponent that may not always be the case. The next governor could come in and really, you know, slash towards and funding or the match or the matching funds program, which we all rely on. And then this would be that backup scenario. We would still have to be able to establish these if we wanted to.

Nicole Mahoney: 36:00 [inaudible] absolutely. I think that’s awesome. So Kristen, you’ve given us so much to think about already as I knew you would and we have touched on collaboration a little bit, but I do want to switch gears and talk a little bit more about collaboration. But you know, as I said early on, it’s hard to talk about creativity and all the work that you’re doing without talking about collaboration. And certainly you’ve had many between the long Island railroad example and the, the uh, the Mmm long Island airport example and just so many other examples. Even the tourism improvement district example takes a lot of collaboration. Um, and that’s true, but I, I’m wondering if, um, there are, you know, as you were preparing for this interview, if there is a collaboration in particular that maybe comes to mind that has really worked for you. And, and the way I generally frame this question is around this whole concept of coopertition what, you know, what I like to call or describe as perceived competitors who come together to create something bigger, um, you know, together than they could on their own. And so I’m wondering if there’s a collaboration in particular that might stand out in your mind that you could share with us.

Kristen Jarnagin: 37:07 Sure. And I just really appreciate the opportunity to talk about all of the great partners that have really stepped forward to come and collaborate with discover long Island. I mean, we are so hardened by everyone that wants to be a part of what we’re doing. The IDH is another collaboration. It’s, it’s every, it’s truly the core of everything that we do is, you know, it’s like world domination. We want everybody on our team. We want everyone speaking from the same playbook. Um, but one interesting one that I haven’t touched on yet is really targeted towards the international markets. You know, we know that, again, New York city has such a wonderful international draw, but you know, long Island is getting, uh, oftentimes a day or two, you know, if lucky a couple of days of that itinerary. So what we did is we are starting a new collaboration with discover new England, um, which is right across the long Island sound from us.

Kristen Jarnagin: 37:57 And it just so happens to be that they’re also discovered and discover new England and we’ve talked to them, they’ve been great partners. And what we’re doing is putting together international 14 day itineraries that start in New York city, come through long Island, allow you to take the ferry through Connecticut and new England and fly out of Boston or the opposite, come into Boston and come through new England and then through long Island out of New York city. And it’s basically creating a new product for the international traveler that allows them to experience of course, New York city and Boston to very amazing urban draws, but also that new England and long Island feel all in one itinerary.

Nicole Mahoney: 38:39 That’s a, that’s fantastic. And what I love about that is, um, you know, you’re seeking collaborations that make sense for, for the visitor. And I think a lot of times, you know, and even myself when we think about collaborations, we might think about collaborating regionally or you know, you talked about your collaboration with NYC and company. Um, we’re all within the same state, but what you’re doing is looking at the visitor pattern and finding those partners that make sense, um, for, for that particular market. Um, which I think is, is really creative and, and outside of the box.

Kristen Jarnagin: 39:11 Thank you. Well, you know, we, we, like I said, when we’re so limited, we have to do everything we can do to leverage everyone around us. And, and I just think it was, we want to cap it. It’s a win win. We get to capitalize, cause we’ll have the visitor more with us and [inaudible] you’re always looking for something new, a new communication tool, a new product. And I could see it even going bigger. I would let you know, I’ve, I’d love to talk to Philadelphia and New York city and, and the Hamptons and have it be an East coast trip. You know when you’re talking, cause when you’re talking internationally, people don’t understand your local nuances. They think of East coast or West coast or again, those iconic brands they’ve heard of new England, Catskills. Um, so basically our doors are open. Anyone that wants to come to long Island for collaboration, we will always sit down at the table with UNC how we can make something work.

Nicole Mahoney: 40:02 Absolutely. And in this particular example to, um, you know, by having those collaborative partners, then you have that much more reach and that many more people that are promoting your product. Right. Because I imagine on this 14 day itinerary, you’ve got all of these places along the way, whether it’s New York city, Boston or anything in between. When they’re out talking with the international markets, they’re also pointing to the same product.

Kristen Jarnagin: 40:23 Absolutely. We get to leverage all of our resources and discover new England actually has a really solid international, um, program. So we get to, we get to capitalize on that and, you know, pull all of our destination resources to your point, to give the visitor a really incredible product and experience.

Nicole Mahoney: 40:44 Yeah, absolutely. That’s awesome. Okay. So, um, Kristen, before I let you go, I just want to ask you one more question. This one really pertains to collaboration and with all of the collaborations that you do, um, are there some words of wisdom or some best practices that you can share with our listeners? Um, that could really help them be more successful in their collaborations?

Kristen Jarnagin: 41:08 You know, I just approach everything with an open mind. I really do. I think, you know, coming here knew my biggest asset I had was that everything and everyone was a blank canvas. And, um, I, I just never want to say, and oftentimes I think people, especially people who have been doing these, you know, these jobs for many, many years, and you’ve tried, maybe you’ve tried in the past or you think, Oh, you know, that’s never been done before, so it can’t be done. Or we tried that in the past, so it’ll never happen. Um, I always approach things with it. You know what, it can’t hurt to ask. It can’t hurt to try. And, um, and I think that, you know, if you take a positive approach to things more oftentimes than not, the outcome will also be positive. Um, so, you know, reach out and allow people to reach out to you.

Kristen Jarnagin: 41:59 Um, and just, just don’t get caught up in the, it can’t be done because it, if I, if I, if I had a nickel for every time somebody said, Oh, that can never be done. You know, we rebranded a year and of the day, me being here and you know, everyone told me establishing a partnership with New York city can never be done. We’ve been trying that for more than 30 years and one meeting later like, Hey, can we do this? Sure. Why not? So, um, I just think, you know, there’s always new people and new players and new perspectives. So never be afraid. [inaudible] just try and approach things with a positive attitude where you can be flexible and find some common ground.

Nicole Mahoney: 42:39 That’s awesome. And I’m, I, I love how we’re ending on the same note that we started with, which is this whole don’t be afraid theme and, and you didn’t say it, but also take risks, right? Be open minded and, and take risks. Just ask. So I think that’s just a great way to round out our conversation. And Kristin, I appreciate so much you being here with us today. Can you share with our listeners where they might find you and where they can find more about discover long Island?

Kristen Jarnagin: 43:09 Sure. So discover long Island is on all social platforms that discover long Island, New York. Um, we’re on LinkedIn, we have a YouTube channel. Um, we’re on Pinterest, so just if you just search for discover long Island, um, or discover long Um, but me personally, I met Chris jr on Twitter, um, or a Chris jar in Y, um, on Instagram and I’m also on LinkedIn. So feel free to link in with me and then if you have any ideas on great collaborations for discovering long Island, let us know.

Nicole Mahoney: 43:41 Fabulous. Thank you so much Kristen. And we’ll look forward to catching up with you again.

Kristen Jarnagin: 43:45 Thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Nicole Mahoney: 43:49 Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to tell you about our influencer ebook. It gives you the inside look at how my agency break the ice media implements influencer marketing for our tourism clients. The book goes into detail on all of the tools that we use to find ditch, manage, and measure influencers. You’ll find information on key follower benchmarks. How did that influence your channels? Getting your destination partners on board, creating itineraries, managing influence or expectations, and measuring for ROI. Does it break the ice forward slash influencers to download the full ebook. Let’s break the ice or it’s lash influencers.

Speaker 1: 44:35 It’s time to hit the road. Again, visit destination on the during your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.

Speaker 4: 45:20 [inaudible].

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