NYS Awards Episode 2

Episode 136

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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 a unique and powerful collaboration between The Wild Center and many other regional partners led to the creation of their award-winning GoNorth program, a travel itinerary that promotes destinations all across the region
  • How Destination Niagara USA completed a massive brand refresh that made a major international impact, allowing the American side of the falls to better differentiate itself from the Canadian side
  • How Rachel Laber Pulvino finds great joy in being Visit Rochester’s “Chief Storyteller”, and how winning the Young Professional Award has given her a new perspective on teamwork and leadership

The Wild Center

Nick Gunn of The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York describes their award-winning GoNorth program, a tour-based travel itinerary focused on the international market that includes destinations across northern New York and the Adirondacks, developed in a unique collaboration with the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council, Fort Ticonderoga, High Peaks Resort, the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau, and the Warren County Tourism Department. He shares some of the many destinations and experiences available on the itinerary, and he explains why the GoNorth program has been able to promote some of the lesser-known destinations in the area and create new revenue streams for the region. He shares the strength of the partnerships that have made GoNorth a compelling itinerary and a great success. He talks about learning of the remarkable number of gems the region offers during the development of the program. He shares how receiving the Tourism Award has been a powerful motivator to continue the work the collaboration is doing.

Destination Niagara USA

Julie Gilbert from Destination Niagara USA discusses their major brand repositioning effort in 2017 that rebuilt their brand architecture from the ground up, with new marketing and photography and a new website. She shares how their new digital outreach generated 6.8 million consumer engagements and $114.6 million in incremental visitor spending, resulting in 111 times their return on investment. She shares the goal of the rebranding to make a more active experience for visitors as summarized by the new tagline “Niagara Falls USA: Where Adventure Comes Naturally”, and she discusses how the rebranding resulted in a younger average consumer age and a higher average consumer income spend. She discusses using physical branding upgrades as a method to promote the new message. She shares how a visit from an Associated Press reporter’s report on the brand relaunch was picked up internationally and generated over 500 million publication impressions. She shares how Niagara Falls USA is working to differentiate their experience offering from what is being offered on the Canadian side of the falls. She shares the lessons learned from doing a major brand refresh for the first time, and she discusses the pride and honor she feels at receiving a

Tourism Excellence Award: Rachel Laber Pulvino of Visit Rochester

Rachel Laber Pulvino with Visit Rochester discusses the honor of winning the Young Professional Award, and she shares her background in public relations, communication and marketing and how her unique skill set has benefited her in her role during her three years with Visit Rochester. She discusses her joy at being Visit Rochester’s “Chief Storyteller” and her excitement at being able to talk about her community with the media, bloggers, and social media influencers. She discusses the professional and leadership growth she has experienced over the last year, and she shares how her mindset toward teamwork and contribution has changed. She shares how honored she feels being selected by her peers to receive a Tourism Excellence Award, and she discusses the remarkable sense of community she feels working with tourism professionals across the state of New York.


The remarkable thing about each of these 2018 NYSTIA Tourism Excellence Award winners is their deep, authentic and infectious enthusiasm for the work they are doing and the impact it is making on their local communities and on tourism across the state. From The Wild Center’s incredible wide-ranging collaboration with other organizations in their region, to Destination Niagara USA’s commitment to rebranding and reaching new audiences both locally and internationally, to Rachel Laber Pulvino’s passion for her community and for sharing the story of Rochester, these award winners truly demonstrate that enthusiasm and dedication are the keys to creating remarkable campaigns that absolutely deserve to be honored by their peers.


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