NYS Awards Episode 1

Episode 135

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We recently attended the 2019 NYS Tourism Conference in Buffalo, New York and interviewed presenters, conference attendees, and Tourism Excellence Award winners. My interviews focused on the conference themes of inclusion, fostering community engagement, and “tourism is everybody’s business”, as well as key takeaways from the conference. This episode focuses on some of the award winners, and I hope you find these conversations informative and inspiring.

In this episode, I share my conversations with:

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council has fostered collaboration between fourteen different New York counties for their “Finger Lakes Region Goes Beyond Wine as a Tourism Hot Spot” program
  • How the New York State Canal Corporation’s partnerships with local businesses and organizations have helped them expand the number of programs and attractions on offer throughout the canal system
  • How Dutchess Tourism is using social media tools such as Facebook Live videos they call “Dutchess Live” to generate interest and showcase destinations and experiences of all kinds that travelers can have in the area
  • How Visit Binghamton is using video interviews as an opportunity to showcase the extensive history of the area and how local entrepreneurs are merging it with new innovations

Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council

Executive Director Lisa Burns shares details about the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council’s award-winning program, “Finger Lakes Region Goes Beyond Wine as a Tourism Hot Spot”, and she shares the remarkable results the program has produced for the region. She shares how the PR-focused program has found great success in publications and media outlets like Conde Nast, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Today Show and others. She shares how fourteen counties in the area are working together in a collaboration to promote the entire region and benefit everyone, and she talks about how the program has far exceeded their goals and in 2017 alone produced more than 2.1 billion impressions and almost five hundred media placements. Lisa discusses how the collaboration between the fourteen counties can serve as a benchmark for how destination management organizations should work. She shares how honored she is that their program was recognized by peers within the industry, and she discusses the further honor of being asked to chair the 2019 NYSTIA Tourism Excellence Awards. She discusses work that is being done to enhance how the awards are presented and promote the value of the NYSTIA organization. She talks about how NYSTIA is now sourcing the awards locally from the area where the awards ceremony is being held each year, and she discusses the process and deadline for nominating others for the 2019 awards.

New York State Canal Corporation

Marketing Director Bill Sweitzer shares details of award-winners the Canal Corporation has nominated in the past, and he discusses why those programs were nominated. He shares how he realized that the tourism industry in the area is the sum of its parts, and why business partners are a major contributor to its marketing success. He discusses how many of the small local tourism businesses are unaware of their own huge contributions to the fabric of local tourism. He discusses nominating the team that creates the canal map and annual guide materials that are given out, and he shares why he wanted to recognize the map and guide’s creators for giving spots in the area a true sense of place. He shares why partnerships are vital to the success of the Canal Corporation, and he explains why being involved in NYSTIA is a huge benefit. He shares his plans for nominations for the next awards, specifically for the Corning Museum of Glass’s GlassBarge program that had more than 55,000 visitors last summer. He shares details about another future nominee, the Cycle the Erie Canal Bike Tour, a seven-day bike ride from one end of the Erie Canal to the other.

Dutchess Tourism

President and CEO Mary Kay Vrba discusses details of their award-winning Facebook Live initiative, “Dutchess Live”, where they create videos showcasing many of the varied experiences available in the area, both large and small. She discusses how the program works and how subjects are targeted and showcased through the video series. She shares pre-promotion efforts to ensure that viewers are aware of the live broadcasts, and she shares how the videos can be repurposed for future productions and promotions. She talks about why it is important to plan your project and do a test run to ensure that the technical side of things is working. She explains why it is important to stay aware of social media and marketing trends, and she shares the steps they have taken to stay current on those trends including sending staff to conferences and participating in webinars as well as doing extensive research. She talks about creating “lunch and learn” programs for partners and vendors so that they can benefit from the research and learning that is being done. She shares why winning an Excellence Award is reassuring and tells her that Dutchess Tourism is on the right track.

Visit Binghamton

Sales and Social Media Manager Cassie Green shares details of their “Be Part of Our Story” campaign, an initiative to tell the past of the community of Binghamton and the unique stories of young entrepreneurs and innovators who are building upon the past to create something new. She shares how the organization brought together the nine stories that Binghamton is showcasing in the campaign, and she shares how the campaign is still growing. She talks about being surprised at the number of great opportunities to promote the area when she first moved into her role. She shares her community pride at being an award winner and recognizes the community collaborations that have made it possible.


These Excellence Award winners each demonstrate how innovation, technology, history, and collaboration come together to create compelling programs and campaigns that truly showcase the remarkable experiences these communities have to offer. The New York State Canal Corporation’s partnerships with local businesses and the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council’s collaboration between their fourteen area counties show us that working together truly benefits everyone involved. Dutchess Tourism’s Facebook Live videos and Visit Binghamton’s “Be Part of Our Story” videos demonstrate the power that technology and social media have to reach new audiences in innovative and compelling ways. These four organizations truly deserve to be honored as Excellence Award winners.


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