NYS Awards Series 2 Episode 2

Episode 149

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The 2019 NYS Tourism Excellence Award winners will be honored at the New York State Tourism Industry Association’s annual meeting on September 27. I had the privilege of talking to each of the winners about their award-winning programs, how those programs impacted tourism in their area and what they learned from being part of the program. The interviews had underlying themes of creativity, partnership, celebration and storytelling. This episode shares the wisdom and stories of those award winners, and I hope you come away as motivated and enlightened as I did. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I share my conversations with:
  • Kelly Blazosky, President of Oneida County Tourism
  • Maggie LaCasse, Director of Communications for Discover Long Island
  • Cassandra Harrington, Executive Director for the Destination Marketing Corporation of Otsego County
  • Lauren Humphrey, Tourism Program Liaison for the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce
  • Ross Levi, Executive Director of I Love NY

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How partnerships across regions boosted the PR and marketing efforts of Oneida County Tourism’s award-winning project
  • Discover Long Island’s unconventional method for raising brand awareness through their new ambassador, Lili
  • How the DMC of Otsego County used their most popular attraction, baseball, to open people’s minds to all of the other things to see
  • Genesee County Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to expand offerings in their unique baseball niche
  • What I Love NY did to help InterPride put on the largest LGBTQ event in history

Oneida County Tourism

Kelly Blazosky is the President of Oneida County Tourism and recipient of the Excellence in Tourism Marketing Projects for her company’s Beyond the Big Apple Brochure. Kelly credits the success of the brochure, which outlines suggested nine-day itineraries across three regions outside of NYC, to the multitude of partnerships made in and around the area. Working with organizations such as I Love NY and partners from the Hudson Valley region and beyond, Kelly’s team was able to construct a multi-region itinerary that gives suggestions for people seeing Niagara Falls, the Corning Museum of Glass, and more. Kelly was refreshed by how partnerships helped boost the project’s marketing and PR efforts and was excited to connect with a variety of brands, such as those in the culinary and craft brewing industries. Kelly is ecstatic to have the hard work that has gone into the project honored by an Excellence Award.

Discover Long Island

Maggie LaCasse is the Director of Communications for Discover Long Island, which is receiving an Excellence in Visitor Service Award for their mobile visitor center, Lili. Named Lili (Long Island, Long Island) by public opinion, Discover Long Island’s mobile visitor center is an ice cream truck repurposed with Long Island imagery, speakers blasting Billy Joel music, and a visitor services team ready to answer questions and dish out merchandise. What an inventive and exciting idea! Lili has been a hero for Long Island as a brand advocate, visitor resource, and a very visible icon of the awesome tourist destination that she’s named after. Discover Long Island’s “small but mighty” team has used Lili to form meaningful local partnerships with vineyards, surf camps, and much more. Maggie is proud to represent Discover Long Island the receiving this Excellence Award is very meaningful to her and her team.

Destination Marketing Corporation of Otsego County

Cassandra Harrington is the Executive Director for the Destination Marketing Corporation of Otsego County, which is receiving the Excellence in Overall Tourism Marketing Award. The challenge Cassandra and her team faced was marketing Otsego County and Cooperstown as more than just a great baseball scene. Through their “Catch Me in Cooperstown” initiative, they were able to use the baseball familiarity to help promote Otsego County’s rural charm, museums, and family-friendly locales. The results speak for themselves: their efforts led to 5,500 additional Facebook followers, a newsletter open rate of 25% (up from the industry-standard 15%), and a 12.1% increase in occupancy tax in their slow season from March to May. Cassandra values the partnerships and support she received along the way, including those from her family and friends, her coworkers, and their advertising agency, BBG&G. She has loved working with organizations like I Love NY and Niagara Falls USA that teach her something new every day. Cassandra is overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness from receiving this Excellence Award, and it’s clearly well deserved.

Genesee County Chamber of Commerce

Lauren Humphrey is the Tourism Liaison for the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, which is receiving the Excellence in Niche Marketing Award. Joined by program partner Casey Brown, Lauren discusses how her team discovered a need for additional offerings to one of their niche target markets: golfers. The 27-hole championship course at Terry Hills was enough to attract crowds of golfers every year, but many of them stayed for more than just that and wanted more course offerings. With experts like Casey Brown, who has a degree in professional golf management, Lauren’s team packaged together lodging and golf courses into payout agreements and advertised for them using brochures and online with the help of my team, Break the Ice Media. Their plan was a success, generating over $300,000 in economic impact last year alone. To Lauren and the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, building an incredible golfing experience is one of the most enjoyable parts of their area. They hope to make every golfer happy enough to keep coming back, and they are honored to receive this Excellence Award.

I Love NY

Ross Levi is the Executive Director of I Love NY, which is receiving an Excellence in Niche Marketing Award. Together with Sarah Emmert, Director of Tourism Policy Initiatives, Ross and I delve into New York City’s recent celebration of World Pride, an international pride event put on every few years by InterPride, a worldwide coalition of pride event organizers. The World Pride event coincided with the Stonewall Uprising, a historic New York City event credited with starting the modern LGBTQ rights movement. The I Love NY team executed a massive effort across the world to promote this event using paid media, speaking events, lunches, and the I Love NY pod as it traveled from place to place, appearing at pride events around the globe. Events also occurred around New York state, with the I Love NY pod and a pop-up welcome center appearing at events in Long Island, Cooperstown, and a number of other locations. The governor even hosted a World Pride Ambassador competition where people submitted videos and were selected to be pride ambassadors. These 11 people joined the World Pride March in New York. The results speak loudly for themselves: this was the largest LGBTQ event in history, with over 5 million people attending over the course of the weekend. The Pride March itself was also the longest in history, attracting numerous attendees from around the world. Ross and Sarah learned the value of international niche partnerships and how to leverage them. They appreciated the opportunity to use a historical event to effectively market and celebrate their cause and the outcomes were spectacular. They are both honored to have their efforts for a cause they believe in validated by recognition through this Excellence Award.


The Excellence Award winners I have for you this week all aimed high, achieved incredible goals, and celebrated those goals with their partners and incredible teams. Oneida County Tourism leveraged partnerships to broaden tourist horizons beyond New York City. Discover Long Island had fun with their tourism efforts by naming an ice cream truck van Lili and having her drive all over to share the beauty of its home. The DMC of Otsego County was able to use baseball to revamp its brand and make their slow season a success. The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce listened to their golf audience and delivered them exactly what they wanted. I Love NY went global to help InterPride create the largest LGBTQ event in history. These are all stories of big dreams, bold ideas, and unreal results, and I love every minute of sharing them with you.


Nicole Mahoney: 00:23 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. I am passionate about travel and tourism and love learning from the experiences of professionals in the industry. I also love celebrating the creative, collaborative and results driven programs that tourism professionals are executing all over the world. Today’s episode is the second in a two part series dedicated to exploring the tourism excellence award winners from the New York State Tourism Industry Association and awards will be presented at the associations annual meeting on September 27th, 2019 my hope is you will learn something new from hearing about these programs. Be inspired to submit your own work for an award program and to celebrate along with us. Regardless if you are receiving in the word without the creative smart results producing work that all of you in the tourism industry execute tourism would not be the powerful economic engine than it is today. Take a minute and relish in the compliment because we all need a pat on the back sometimes. Now let’s get into the interviews. First up, Kelly [inaudible], president Oneida county tourism, the beyond the big apple brochures being recognized with an excellence and tourism marketing projects award beyond the big apple is a regional itinerary developed by central New York, Hudson Valley and Catskills, the international Marcus. The program highlights three regions with a suggested nine day itinerary offering countless adventures beyond New York City. Another example of how collaborations work in our industry.

Speaker 1: 01:50 Kelly, thank you so much for taking some time to talk to us today. Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into the tourism industry

Nicole Mahoney: 01:59 and what you love most about this industry?

Speaker 3: 02:02 Sure. Thank you so much, Nicole, for having me on the show. Um, well I’ve been a tourism executive for, uh, nearly 20 years now. As I think about that. Um, uh, joined, uh, a DMO in southeast Ohio as their marketing director there and then moved into rolling president shortly after that. Yeah. Um, and then was recruited to upstate New York. Um, two, ironically, my husband’s where my husband is from originally, so, um, that was a nice move and we have, uh, really enjoyed, I’ve been moved to upstate New York and, um, it’s been, you know, a pleasure getting to the opportunity to learn all about this state. Um, central New York and the Great Partnership [inaudible] Yeah, everyone has with, I love New York and being a part of that iconic brand is really optimal being in the tourism

Nicole Mahoney: 03:00 industry. Yeah, absolutely. And so now you are with Oneida County and, um, you are representing one of the programs that’s receiving an award. Can you tell us about the program and how it’s impacted tourism?

Speaker 3: 03:18 Yes, absolutely. Um, beyond the big apple is a partnership. It’s really a partnership to create a multi-regional itinerary for the international travel market. Um, as you know, as you’re engaged with the international travel market with, I love New York. Um, really we are all such, yeah. You know, little fish in a big pond. And so partnerships, um, really paved the way for [inaudible] for getting regions a little more, um, exposure when it comes to talking to is the tour operators and travel agencies, um, even on the PR and media side for international marketing. And so with world travel market central New York had been engaged, has been engaged with [inaudible], um, marketing to the international, um, market through world travel market now for probably eight years. Um, and we’ve carried the Bruce central brand, um, and messaging and, um, it was really time to evolve it a little bit larger, um, than just central New York.

Speaker 3: 04:28 So, um, we reached out to the Hudson Valley, um, particularly Dutchess County and worked with Mary Kay Verba and dawn copper. Um, and then also reached out to Sullivan Catskills and lived with, uh, Roberta Lockwood there. [inaudible] put together multi-region itinerary, um, [inaudible], you know, focusing on international operators that are bringing their clients through. Um, New York City is the gateway and, and then exploring more so beyond the big apple was born out of that. Um, we’ve really wanted to focus as well and keep our focus on some constant themes for each one of our regions. So craft beverage is, you know, very big movement for New York state and for all of us. So craft beverage was on the list. Um, of course call an airy experiences, always add to yeah, anybody’s travel experience. So we all covered some of our unique culinary offerings, um, outdoor recreation and then of course iconic attractions in each of our three areas.

Speaker 3: 05:43 So we put that together and um, it’s also key to tell internationals, you know, how to get around when they’re [inaudible] coming into the state. Um, so we identified, you know, air service, um, car hire, the Amtrak Services, um, and where they go. And then of course, critical thing is the accommodations that are bookable, um, through the international channels to book accommodation. So, um, it all came together really nicely and it’s been very well received. That’s awesome. And I love that it’s the small Thai region itinerary, um, because you talk about central New York, which is several, um, destinations already as a regional brand. And then you, you’ve taken it even further and an extended it for the visitors so that they can really connect the dots between, like you said, New York City and, and where you’re located. Um, what is one thing that you have learned from being part of this program?

Speaker 3: 06:41 Um, well certainly that when it comes to speaking to the operators, um, delivering up a product or an idea, a suggested itinerary, even, um, [inaudible] that has been vetted out with accommodations that can be okay. Okay. Um, that are, you know, through receptive operators. Um, but then actually making those connections as you just said. Um, yeah, connecting the dots for them to show them is easy to do and, um, that there are lots of opportunities between point a and point B, you know, if they’re making their way to Niagara Falls or Corning for Corning Museum of glass, here are other things to do in between to create a memorable experience. And, you know, really this is three regions. Uh, we suggest that it’s nine days. Um, but it can be modified, um, shortened length and, or connected on into other opportunities like mine, water’s in wonders and I, I really have to give a shout out to that group.

Speaker 3: 07:45 Um, they’ve really paved the way for this type of marketing. So, you know, we’ve, we’ve seen how successful that has been and it’s just really, um, got the creative juices going for, um, you know, some of us that want to develop product, like, yeah. So beyond the big apple, it was born out of that. Oh, that’s great. I love it. And what does being a tourism excellence award winner mean to you? Oh, that was really exciting because really, you know this, when you put together programs like this, it’s, it’s often, you know, at a luncheon or a dinner or after you’ve been to an event and it’s like you’re creative, you know, juices are going and you’re thinking, what can we do different to deliver our wonderful product and message? Um, so then, you know, when you actually put it together, it comes to come.

Speaker 3: 08:36 Yeah. It all comes together in the pieces printed in the the web, the splash website is up and you’re actually doing campaigns with it. Okay. It’s exciting men to see it recognize. So, um, you know, we’ve, we’ve done move beyond justice suggested itinerary and we’ve actually done some mmm. Marketing with some international, um, operators. Uh, we’ve worked with fat America as you like it. Okay. Um, and it was certainly well received there. Um, received just phenomenal, um, feedback and um, yeah, uh, attract, you know, not attraction but traction with um, clicks, click throughs and people actually going to read more about, um, what we were suggesting that they could do. So the operators really engaged with it. So that was exciting. And then to, you know, have it validated by our industry is even more gratifying.

Speaker 4: 09:32 That’s awesome. Thank you so much Kelly for sharing with us today and congratulations on the award.

Speaker 3: 09:39 Thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:42 Next I talked to Maggie [inaudible], director of communications for discover Long Island about Lilly. They’re mobile visitor information center that is being recognized with an excellence and visit service award. In October, 2018 discover long island launched the regions [inaudible] ever mobile visitors center. Maggie shares how her destination decided to convert and iconic long island ice cream truck to be a symbol of the long island destination that not only provides information to visitors and the local region, but also provides a unique opportunity to advocate to locals on the value of tourism. [inaudible] build community pride and provide a new source of revenues. Your merchandise sales.

Speaker 4: 10:23 Maggie, thank you so much for taking some time to talk with us today about your tourism in excellence award. I’m really excited to hear about the program that is being recognized. But before we get into the questions, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into the tourism industry, what you love most about being in this industry?

Speaker 3: 10:42 Sure. Thank you so much for having me. So I am, um, our director of communications here at discover Long Island, um, been with discover now for a little over three years. Um, and I started in the tourism agency. You know, roughly 10 years ago, um, at the brand and agency in New York City and was representing luxury locations around the world and doing luxury travel PR and communications there. Um, so it’s been an exciting switch. I, my career started in fashion actually. So it’s been an exciting switch for me to tourism ever since. Um, but I love working where I grew up. I grew up on long island and representing the place I call home.

Speaker 4: 11:24 That’s awesome. And I think that’s what so many of us in this industry do love about the job that we do is that we get to, you know, be that cheerleader and tell everyone why we love where we live. So much. So I think that’s really awesome. Yeah. And I’m sure through the program that you’re being honored for, you were able to amplify that even further. So could you tell us about the program, um, that is receiving the tourism excellence award and how it’s impacted whereas I’m in your area?

Speaker 3: 11:51 Yeah, of course. So our project that’s being awarded is, um, our discover lily. She started back in October, 2018 um, when we launched the region’s first ever mobile visitors center. So we actually converted an iconic long island ice cream truck to be a symbol of the long island destination information, which not only stays on brand and our efforts to reach 30% of the market share that comes for the local region, but provides a unique opportunity for us to advocate to locals on the value of tourism to our economy, builds community pride and provides a new source of revenue through merchandise sales.

Nicole Mahoney: 12:29 Oh, that’s so cool. And, and I know this is a, this is a podcast episode so listeners can’t actually see lily, but I’ve seen pictures and, and that it’s really a fun, you know, mobile kind of visitors center. Right. And can you talk a little bit about where you take it and how that outreach has really played out for you?

Speaker 3: 12:48 Yeah, so lily meets with over 40,000 visitors in levels on an annual basis. She’s out and about at all of our different events. So, whether it’s the oyster festival or the maritime festival or the World Surf League, which is coming here this September the sixth through the 12th down in Long Beach, you can kind of recognize her. She’s been geared out with all long island, um, different imagery. We have great speakers where we play some, you know, local Billy Joel songs and, um, we have our create visitor services team who’s down there with her, you know, whether you want to buy long island merchandise or you want to know the next plate, the best festival to go to or you know, just when to visit or what to do. We always have someone there kind of as an influencer. She’s really down there, um, with endless potential for, you know, whether we’re, um, embracing our stakeholders or elected officials and, or our community.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:44 That was awesome and I love how you personified her and, and actually how it, how you’ve talked about she is an influencer and that’s really how you’re positioning it and how you’re using it in your community. I think that’s, that’s just really great.

Speaker 3: 13:57 Yeah. She, um, we actually had a contest for her name and what one was lily. It stands for long island, Long Island. Um, but she does, she has her own personality and she’s really fun. It’s a great way for us to just get some recognition in our area and people start to recognize the brand and what we do and who we are.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:16 Yeah. That’s great. So what is one thing that you’ve learned from being part of this program?

Speaker 3: 14:21 I think one of the things that we’ve learned is just how many different levels lily has taken on, whether it’s visitor information or advocacy and our destination as a literal bit vehicle of communication. She provides a really unique opportunity for us to not only share destination information, but to also just drive awareness of the positive impacts of the visitor economy has on our region and the endless benefits that actually provides residents, which I feel like they don’t recognize on a daily basis.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:51 Yeah, absolutely. And I commit, I can imagine with how fun and you know, this personality that you’ve created too, right. Are for, for this vehicle is, you know, what a magnet she can be right to residents and visitors, et Cetera, and really kind of standing out and, and making that, um, impact on the communities where you go and visit.

Speaker 3: 15:11 I think that’s been one of the things that’s been most surprising is just how much community pride that she actually sparks. Um, you know, we never started out as it being kind of a revenue generator for some of our, our merchandise that we had, but people have seen us out there wearing our long island gear and they’ve just been come so, you know, enthused with it and they’re like, where can we get that shirt? We love it. And you know, it just really has become such a great resource for us to build that pride and the beautiful place we call home. So we’ve really kind of, you know, lashed on to that and are trying to expand it a little bit more.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:49 Absolutely. Can you talk a little bit about, um, all of the different, um, partners that might have had to help get lily off the ground? You mentioned you did a contest, so there was some crowdsourcing for her name. Um, were there other key partners to helping you build it out to figuring out the design and coming up with lambs is something you did all internally or did you have to rely on some outside vendors to help?

Speaker 3: 16:13 We did a lot of it internally. Um, we are a small but mighty team at discover long island and we take a lot of pride. But you know, we also engaged, like I said, our stakeholders, our board of directors, we really wanted them to be involved in it and we really wanted the long island community to be involved in it, which is where the contest came into play. Um, you know, part of the, the imagery that she’s wrapped and we went all around the island, um, with our different photo shoots and really got a lot of our partners, whether you are, you know, skin served down in Long Beach and you’re a surf camp or you’re our long island wine country, which has over 60 vineyards to choose from. We tried to kind of have a breath along island shown on her to kind of showcase that.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:56 Yeah, I think, I think that’s awesome. And, and, and what, uh, what a great project for you and the team and I’m sure what a great honor to receive a tourism excellence award. And so I’m wondering what does being a tourism excellent award winner mean to you?

Speaker 3: 17:11 It means so much, you know, it’s, it’s what we do this for it, you know, we do it for our community, we do it for ourselves cause we love where we live. But to be recognized in our industry with this award is just such a great honor because it means that we’re really doing something right. So we really appreciate the recognition.

Nicole Mahoney: 17:31 That’s great. Well, Maggie, thank you so much for sharing with us today and we’ll look forward to seeing you accept that award in September at the, uh, annual meeting.

Speaker 3: 17:40 Thank you so much Nicole. We love talking with you.

Nicole Mahoney: 17:44 Next. Cassandra Harrington, executive director for the Destination Marketing Corporation for Otsego county. It talks about the catch me in Cooperstown and that Sego county campaign that is being honored with an excellence and overall tourism marketing award. The overriding goal of the campaign was to revitalize a brand, had not taken full advantage of current destination marketing methods in collaboration with their agency, BBG and g, the campaign sought to promote Otsego county and Cooperstown as an authentic destination that connects American culture and experiences in the pristine rural setting. In order to maintain leisure volume in primary markets, reach new prospects and expanded markets, [inaudible] bed tax revenue by increasing overnights days and increased participation in the organization’s partner program.

Speaker 4: 18:33 Cassandra, congratulations on being a tourism excellence award winner. I’m so excited to talk with you about your award. Well, before we start, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, how you got into the tourism industry and what do you love most about being in the sentence? Great,

Speaker 3: 18:50 sure. Um, thanks for having me and um, thank you for that. I have been working in the tourism industry, I think, um, since I was old enough to work kind of by happenstance, I started working at a winery in the finger lakes when I was old enough to work, um, and was involved in the wine industry up until I made the move to Cooper’s town. So, um, just after college I worked, um, at the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce, which was also the county tpa. I worked along side the tourism promotion agents in the office. I’m working in membership development and economic development and um, moved from there onto the director of the Cayuga Lake wine trail. And, um, I was there for about three years until I moved to Cooperstown to take on this physician here at, um, the destination marketing corporation for apps. You go county.

Speaker 4: 19:50 That’s awesome. And, uh, so you’ve been in the industry a long time. And can you tell us what do you love most about the industry?

Speaker 3: 19:57 Uh, I love the comradery. I love how, um, you know, everybody in New York state who’s working in tourism has the same collective goal. And when we all get together, regardless of whether or not we’re from Buffalo, New York City or the mountains, you know, we’re all working towards getting increased visitation to New York and to really share what New York has to offer beyond, you know, the, the New York City that, that most people across the globe think of when they hear New York. There’s so much, there’s so much to be seen and to do. And I love sharing that with [inaudible] people. Um, I know the joy that I get out of traveling. So it’s pretty cool to be able to connect people with the things that, but also bring them joy on their vacations. Well,

Speaker 4: 20:47 yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I think that’s a, that’s really awesome. And we’re fortunate to be in this industry. So tell us about your program that’s being recognized with a tourism excellence or I didn’t, and how that program has impacted tourism in your area.

Speaker 3: 21:05 Sure. Um, so the, the program of reference is our catch me, um, tagline and everything that did a companies that, um, when I first started, one of the struggles Cooperstown in Osteo county was facing was the, um, getting, getting the word out that there was more to Cooperstown than baseball. Um, you know, then that it was still a fun place to visit if you’re not a die hard baseball fans. And it certainly is, and we have a huge diversity of [inaudible]. And so what we did was we, we kind of an after this, um, a subtle play on words, um, catch me in Cooperstown, um, catch me being the baseball, uh, play, but also we have, we can use that across all sorts of [inaudible]. Okay, so you can catch me theater, catch me, um, catch me at the farmer’s museum, catch me anywhere. Um, and so that has really given us the opportunity to showcase more of what the entire county has to offer a, an extending beyond the zip code of Cooperstown.

Speaker 3: 22:22 Um, you know, we’re here to market the entire county and we have great assets in Oneonta and Gilbertsville. And so that’s, that has been one of the things that we’ve really taken on as a [inaudible] [inaudible] this, this campaign in particular was to really showcase everything that, that we have. Um, you know, when we go, we can travel across the country and mentioned Cooperstown in the first thing that what comes to people’s mind is baseball, but a lot of them don’t know that Cooperstown is located on a lake and we have amazing museums here and at the gray family friendly destination. [inaudible] your level of Baseball Fan Ism,

Speaker 3: 23:05 um, the campaign itself, um, has been, has been extremely effective. Yeah, no, we’ve seen it an increase in our open rates on our newsletters. You know, industry norm is around 15%. I think we’re coming in closer to 25 or percent. Um, so am just in 2018 alone, we saw over five and a half thousand increase in [inaudible] and Facebook followers. And so, you know, one of the, one of the things that I think [inaudible] that happened in, in our area though as a result of that [inaudible] our partners program. Yeah. I’ve seen is we’ve kind of had a little bit of a balancing effect in that I’m hearing more from some of our smaller businesses that didn’t necessarily get a ton of visitations before that their visitation has gone. Okay. Quite a bit because, you know, we’re, we’re showcasing more than then, you know, just the baseball, um, baseball attractions in the area.

Speaker 3: 24:11 So that has been, that has been kind of Nice to see, um, as that unfolds. And we’re really excited that some of our, our, uh, lower level investors have increased their investment in the program because of that. And we also saw quite a big increase in occupancy tax in our shoulder season in, um, um, March march to May from 2017 to 2018. Uh, we saw 12 [inaudible] increase in occupancy to action. As many people know, working industry march to May is very challenging time to get people out of their homes. They’ve got winter blues and, and they’re not doing a lot of traveling. Um, and so to see a 12 like 1% increase outside of the summer season was huge for us. I think that that campaign really helped with that engagement.

Speaker 4: 25:04 Absolutely. Those are some really awesome numbers. And, uh, I know programs like this a, you know, in campaigns like this don’t happen on their own. So, um, if you could give a shout out to the partners that helped you and maybe the agency that helped you, um, you know, we’d like to make sure that our listeners know who’s, who’s responsible for helping you pull this award winning program together.

Speaker 3: 25:26 Yeah, absolutely. Um, shout out definitely to Jacqueline. She’s, she’s my Robin. There’s only two of us here in the office and I couldn’t do anything same without her. Um, I’ve got an extraordinary board of directors, um, and a marketing committee and they’re very responsive and encouraging and helpful and they, they make our jobs, um, very enjoyable. And, and that, that, and it’s [inaudible]. I mean, so, you know, we’re happy to come to work every day. Um, in our agency, our advertising agency, BBG andG , they’re in mention of us there. They’re amazing. They have, um, no, they’ve done a lot. They’ve come up some creative [inaudible] that’s really blown my mind. And, um, one of the things that I think there best at is the numbers game. You know, they, they, they wow me with stats with things that they’re doing behind the scenes. Um, and so I definitely thankful for them. And then, and then to my, my, my informal focus group participants, which are basically my friends and family who constantly get text messages from me with pictures, like do like a, B or c better. I’m a lot of the, um, I have a great support system that the, yeah. Um, DMC EOC here we, we’ve, it’s a well oiled machine. Um, but um, it takes a lot to, to put that into place. And, um, we’ve, we’ve just got a great group of people here that all helped too, to bring out Diego county up to them, more friends of the visitor’s mind.

Speaker 4: 27:04 That’s awesome. And so now what is one thing that you have learned from being part of this program?

Speaker 3: 27:10 I got to say I learn something new every day. Um, I, uh, that’s one of the things that I like about this transition. I’ve been here now for, um, no, almost two years coming up. Wow, that’s crazy. Um, it seems as if I’ve just been on a listening tour, you know, I sit at a table with other DMO leaders and I’m blown away by the things that, that they do and think of. And, you know, I’m [inaudible], um, yeah, discover long island. I love New York’s program, Niagara Falls USA. Uh, in New York’s best experiences. They’re there, they’re all great people. And I, I, I learn so much from them. Um, you know, and, and one of the things that, that I really have to keep in mind and these people show me is you can’t get stuck thinking inside the box because then, you know, your, your product just [inaudible] becomes white noise at that point. And you have to figure out ways to do things differently. Um, and, and some people would think that that’s exhausting and it, yeah, it can be at, but, um, but it’s fun. Yeah. This job keeps everybody on their toes. And, um, that’s one of the things that I love about it.

Speaker 4: 28:27 Yeah, absolutely. And what does being a tourism excellence award winner mean to you?

Speaker 3: 28:33 Oh fine. I have like a flood of emotions. When I got the news, yes. At first I was shocked and then humbled and surprised. But overall I’d, I’d say honored because it was, yeah. Peer nomination and for, um, for people out there to be seeing what we’re doing. And, um, you know, I just, I’m so, I’m surprised that there were amongst the, the group of, of people being recognized, but, but then when I, when I take a step back and I look at, you know, what’s going on and then they have the output from a two person team, um, I guess I’m not surprised because I think that we, you know, everybody here works super hard right down to [inaudible] individual directors on our board. Um, and so even, okay. It means a lot. There’s a, there’s a lot, there’s a lot going through my head and, um, it’s kind of surreal. But yeah, it’s one of those things where you just gotta sit back and, and just thank you. It’s cool, but what can we do next? Um, and how, how are we going to further this, um, this program to make, to, to stay, um, on top. Just cool.

Speaker 4: 29:48 Absolutely. Yeah. What can, what can we do next? Always pushing right to a, to improve and be better. Thank you so much Cassandra for taking some time to talk with us today and we’ll look forward to seeing your accent.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:00 That award at the uh,

Speaker 4: 30:02 annual, uh, meeting for New York State

Nicole Mahoney: 30:05 [inaudible] Industry Tourism Industry Association in September.

Speaker 3: 30:08 Great. I’ll see you then. Thank you so much.

Nicole Mahoney: 30:10 Next. Lauren Humphrey tourism program liaison for the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce. Okay. [inaudible] was joined by program partner Casey Brown to talk about the county’s golf getaways program. It is being honored with an excellence in Niche Marketing Award, the Genesee County Tourism Office, fried it and getaway package program focused on the counties Gulf product [inaudible]. Several of Genesee county’s golf courses along with a variety of hotels are packaged together and promoted through the tourism office, which takes on the full services of a travel agency, including establishing annual pricing, braiding print collateral, supporting the program through a targeted marketing campaign, managing the reservations, processing payments, and providing guests services. Bookings start as early as January for stays in April and continue through the season into October. This program is near to my heart because break the ice media provides the Facebook advertising and marketing support along with quicken Stein design who provides the print collateral. A quick shout out to Camille’s as for my team for doing a great job on this program. So Lauren and Casey, thank you so much for taking some time out to talk to us today. I’m really excited to learn about your tourism, an excellence award and the program that, that you’re winning the award for. But before we start with that, Lauren, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, um, how you got into the tourism industry and then maybe what you love most about being in this industry.

Speaker 3: 31:37 Yeah. Hi Nicole. Thanks for having us. Um, so I started back in, I want to say 2015. Um, I would stay at home mom for several years and I work, um, and some volunteer capacities here and there. I’m just kind of doing the honing my marketing skills while I was home to keep it active. And, uh, Kelly ripolin over at the Chamber of Commerce here in Batavia had, um, chatted with a mutual friend. She was looking for a tourism marketing assistant and I was ready to join the workforce again. So we connected. I started as her assistant back then and I actually, I loved it. I was here for about 18 months and I took a hiatus. I got hired as a marketing director out of the industry. Um, and that lasted from about six months. And then I realized that that the tourism hospitality industry is really where my heart was. So I actually came back. So I’m a contractor with the chamber and I have a few other clients, but, um, yeah, my heart has been in tourism and I, this is where I’ll stay.

Speaker 4: 32:41 I can totally relate. So many of us, you know, get into the industry and, and just wanted to stick with it cause it is so fun. Um, and Casey, can you tell us a little bit about, about yourself and I know you’re with Cherry hills golf course, correct?

Speaker 5: 32:55 Yes, that’s correct. Uh, thanks to call. Um, [inaudible]. Yeah. Uh, I’ve been in the golf, uh, business for, uh, basically ever since I was a kid. It’s, uh, Terry hills is a family owned and operated a golf course. Um, so I grew up playing golf. Um, I went to a Penn state for professional golf management. Uh, I’ve done several internships at a bunch of different courses all over the country, but a ultimately, uh, came back home, uh, to Batavia here. And, uh, getting back to a follow along with the family business here.

Speaker 4: 33:32 That’s, um, that’s awesome. So all of us are working in an industry that we’re very passionate about and, uh, I’d love to hear about the program that you’re being recognized for and how it impacted tourism in your area. Can you start us off, Lauren?

Speaker 5: 33:49 Yeah. So to give a little background, our office basically wanted to market golf getaway to outer markets. I’m Carrie hills. We’re home to Terry hills obviously, and they’re at 27 hole championship course. And that’s our main course. But, um, we found that golfers wanted to enjoy more offerings during the trip. They wouldn’t, they would want to come and stay multiple days in golf, multiple different courses, sometimes twice a day even. Um, so we agreed to step in and be the booking engine because the courses hadn’t, um, they weren’t set up to package with each other with the hotel. So we uh, with our partners developed pricing and payout agreements and okay. Chamber, we take the packages to consumers through golf shows, printed brochures, online advertising. Um, and [inaudible] last year specifically we really ramped up with, with your team’s help Nicole break the ice. Camille specifically with Facebook advertising. And um, so basically we provide multiple course play and stay packages.

Speaker 4: 34:53 Um, yeah, and I, I think what’s so unique about, um, what you offer through the, through the tourism office there under the chamber is that that booking engine cause are a lot of times that is the, uh, the sticking point if you will, um, when it comes to putting these packages together for consumers. Right?

Speaker 5: 35:10 Yeah. Yeah. And you know, um, it’s really been super impactful in, in the area. Um, prior to this there would be, you know, groups here and there. I think they’d really call Casey directly at Terry Hills looking for hotel. But last year, specifically within our program, we had 610 golfers, which equated to close to $300,000 in economic impact. And that’s probably a low estimate based on some surveying we’ve been doing year. Um, they’re spending a lot of money while they’re here.

Speaker 4: 35:40 Yeah. And so that, that really answers the question, how does this impact tourism in your area? It’s really about the economic impact that bringing that many golfers to the region or to the area, uh, has on your community. Right?

Speaker 5: 35:53 Absolutely. And in a very short this season really, it’s, so I’m in April and then through the summer and even into October. So

Speaker 4: 36:01 yeah, I think that’s a, that’s just awesome. So what is one thing that you have learned from being part of this program?

Speaker 5: 36:09 Um, so we discussed this actually a little bit and we’ve learned quite a bit. Um, but I think the biggest takeaway is that even if something isn’t being done, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done right. We have great golf, we had an abundance of lodging, but nobody really had connected the dots to package them. So we saw the opportunity and we worked to basically fill a void within the community.

Speaker 4: 36:32 Yeah, I, I completely agree. How about UKC what, what, um, have you learned being part of this program and working with the tourism office?

Speaker 5: 36:40 Oh yeah, it’s been a great, um, I’ve learned a lot from, uh, from Lauren and Kelly at the chamber there. Uh, it does take, um, a lot too [inaudible] put everything together and, uh, get the hotels booked and sometimes there full sometimes, um, you know, plans change. So, um, there is, um, a lot that goes into it and, uh, I’m thankful that I have a good partner with them.

Speaker 4: 37:08 Yeah, that’s absolutely. And, uh, and, and Laura and I, I don’t know if you mentioned this, but you’re very focused on a certain, um, market for this program. It’s not just all consumers, right? The, the target area. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Speaker 5: 37:24 Yeah, so we’ve found that really the bulk of our guests are coming from southern Ontario. Um, what we call here [inaudible] the tourism world. I think in general, the Golden Horseshoe. So a lot of Toronto, um, Mississauga and that area there, they’re drive distance, you know, we don’t get people, um, very often that are much further than a few hours away. So we really focus heavily on that market and the buffalo area as well.

Speaker 4: 37:50 Yeah. And what does being a tourism excellence award winner mean to you?

Speaker 5: 37:57 Um, me specifically and in our office, it’s a real honor, especially because this is an award [inaudible] we’ve been recognized by our peers, you know, um, we really love partnering with the businesses and, and we do it every day. Um, and promoting our area in any, in a unique way, in such a niche way is a lot of fun, but to be recognized for it is, it’s a really big honor.

Speaker 4: 38:20 And how about you, Casey?

Speaker 5: 38:21 Yeah, that’s great. Um, that’s a, it means a lot to us to, uh, to be recognized. Um, you know, it’s been doing this for several years now and it started off real small and it’s, it’s a great to see it have grown, you know, throughout the years and more and more people, uh, you know, uh, just through word of mouth and all the other things that we do. But, uh, um, yeah, it’s definitely a great to be, uh, to be recognized and, uh, um, I like to think that we do, you know, do everything the right way. So, um, we’re very pleased with it.

Speaker 4: 39:00 Yeah. And I think that’s a good, a good point because, um, you’re, you’re delivering on the experience, right? The tourism office is, is marketing it and packaging it, but then at the end of the day, you have to deliver that first class experience that to generate that word of mouth. Right?

Speaker 5: 39:15 Yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, we take pride in, in the golf course and uh, and the golfers experience here, um, oh when they come down. So, uh, we always like to, uh, you know, just show them a good time and, uh, make them happy, so, uh, they’ll keep coming back. Um, most of the people that come down here are great people and, um, it’s a pleasure to have them.

Speaker 4: 39:39 That’s awesome. Well, it’s been a pleasure to talk with both of you, um, about, uh, your program and well deserved award and, um, we’ll look forward to seeing you receive that award, uh, in September at the New York state tourism, uh, annual meeting. Um, thanks so much for joining me.

Speaker 5: 40:00 Thank you. My pleasure.

Nicole Mahoney: 40:02 Next Russ Levi, executive director of, I love New York and Sarah Emmer, director of tourism policy initiatives. For. I love New York talk about the LGBT WorldPride promotional campaign that is being honored with an excellence in niche marketing awards. WorldPride the largest pride celebration in the world came to the United States for the first time in its history in June of 2019 the event was held in New York City to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the stonewall rebellion, widely seen as the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. This campaign, it was an extensive effort that began in March of 2018 looking to maximize what would already be an important draw for New York City into an opportunity to wow all of New York state as a destination for LGBTQ travelers. Thanks to advanced planning. The New York State Division of Tourism was able to Position York state messaging [inaudible] in front of key LGBTQ audiences across the globe for this once in a lifetime opportunity, which was a considerable shift from the five hour drive market. The I love New York LGBT program has focused on in previous years, this campaign was multifaceted and comprehensive and was executed in partnership with tourism stakeholders cross the state.

Speaker 4: 41:18 Ross and Sarah, thank you so much for taking some time out to talk to us today about your program that is being honored with a tourism excellence award. Before we dive into, you know, learning more about your program,

Nicole Mahoney: 41:30 um, I’d like to learn a little bit more about each of you, so listeners have

Speaker 4: 41:34 fantastic. Um, can we start with you Ross? Could you tell us a little bit about yourself or you got into the industry and what you love most about this industry?

Speaker 5: 41:42 Sure. Uh, it was probably about seven or eight years ago, uh, that, uh, I started with, I love New York. Um, it was to do marketing in general tourism and business marketing. Uh, but one of the specific things that brought me here a was the idea of LGBTQ travel. Uh, and, uh, from my past experience heading up the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, uh, we had not necessarily maximized, uh, the benefits and the dividends of, for example, green marriage too, New York state. Um, and so that was one of the projects I came here to do. The more I worked in tourism, the more I loved that piece of it. And uh, I was able to sort of have the business marketing piece fade away and uh, I’ve been doing tourism exclusively for awhile now and uh, in the last two years as the, uh, the head of the division of tourism, the executive director. Um, and I love a lot of things about it. Uh, I love the opportunity to see the amazing tourism assets of New York state. I love working with our tourism partners, but at the end of the day, I think the thing I love the most is my job is to convince people to go have fun, to go have great life changing experiences. Cause the, some of the best experiences of my life have been when I was on vacation. And I loved the opportunity to encourage other people to do that, particularly here in New York state.

Speaker 4: 43:07 And that’s awesome. Yeah. Who wouldn’t love a job where you’re convincing people to go have fun. I think that’s awesome. So Sarah, how about you? Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and, and how you got into the industry and what you love most?

Speaker 5: 43:20 Sure. Um, I started about three and a half years ago now with, I love New York. Um, originally I had worked in politics and government, so I had worked for the governor’s office before coming over. Um, and an opportunity came up to work with, I love New York and, uh, I jumped right on it. Um, mostly because, you know, the governor is really prioritized, uh, tourism and it’s important to New York state and just having the opportunity to take, you know, my government experience and be able to work, you know, with a group of people and the, in an industry that really cares about furthering tourism and using the knowledge that I had from my previous government work to try and help, you know, especially when it comes to red tape or new ideas or policy initiatives. Um, so I was really excited to delve into a new industry and, um, I would say what I love so much about it is I’m actually from western New York. Um, spend some time [inaudible], you know, over in Albany, and I really love New York City, so I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty broad scope of the, and traveled a lot, but I’m still learning so much more. I mean, even three and a half years, then there’s so much to do in New York state. And I just love a job that keeps giving me new things to learn about giving me new things to experience. Um, and, and I would say that this job definitely does that.

Speaker 4: 44:49 Yeah, absolutely. And, and, and I love that, that, you know, no matter how long you’ve lived in this state, there’s always something new to see and something to learn. I completely agree. And I also love your point about how supportive, uh, the governor is of tourism in this state and how fortunate we are to have that support and have that prioritized, which I think is probably part of the foundation of what has led to this award winning program that we’re going to talk about. So, um, could you please share with our listeners a little bit about the program that you are being, um, uh, recognized for, with the tourism of [inaudible]?

Speaker 5: 45:25 Sure. This was sort of a unique opportunity that New York state was able to maximize, uh, in the area of tourism. Uh, it was the recognition of world pride coming to New York state world pride as an event put on by interpride, which is the, uh, sort of international coalition of pride organizers from around the world. Um, and rural pride sort of travels to a different destination every few years, kind of like the Olympics. And for June of 2019, [inaudible] [inaudible] in a way it didn’t have a choice. They of course did have a choice, but there was no good choice except to come to New York, uh, for the first time it has ever come into the u s and that’s because it coincided with the 50th anniversary of the stonewall uprising, which took place right here in New York, in New York City. What’s considered [inaudible] by many most to be the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

Speaker 5: 46:17 Um, so we knew that event was coming here. And, uh, the team here at island New York spent two years preparing for the arrival of WorldPride, uh, to promote it and maximize it as an opportunity, um, and really make sure that we were making an invitation to the world to not only come to New York City, but in fact experience all of New York state and understand that world pride would be a New York state experience. So the campaign that, a lot of different components we had, uh, we started basically with a sort of a WorldPride pod tour where we went to pride events literally across the world from La to Berlin to London. Um, and you know, with the goal of increasing the familiarity and consideration of New York state attractions and world pride itself in New York City, we collected via email addresses and of course engage with pride attendees so we could communicate to them about what would be happening in here in New York state.

Speaker 5: 47:13 And we just, we were exposed to literally millions of people through that effort. Uh, we did a bunch of PR activities including a big rural pride media lunch we did in New York City in cooperation with heritage of pride. They’re the local folks, uh, who organized pride events and we’re putting on world. Um, and with them we hosted 19 top tier journalists, uh, you mostly from LGBT outlets. Uh, we had Billy Porter, the star of Po’s come and gave a really inspirational talk, um, and then allowed us to, I really talk to them about what would be happening in a, in a really great intimate setting and allowed us to open the door to do additional pitches, uh, in top tier outlets. We ended up getting coverage in Forbes and out magazine and all kinds of other great outlets. We had a paid media campaign. They printed digital and targeted outlets, um, and a partnership with pride media too, create content with key LGBTQ influencers.

Speaker 5: 48:09 We work to get world pride events hosted across New York state work with our TPA partners to encourage them to work with tourism attractions to put on special events. And we ended up having about seven different upstate and long island events, including [inaudible] on the beach in Long Island and pride at the falls in Niagara Falls. And, uh, amazing Herbert’s exhibit at the Fenimore Museum and Cooper’s Cooperstown. We opened a welcome center, a pop up welcome center for World Pride, uh, with heritage of pride on Christopher Street. Literally just steps from stonewall so visitors can learn about pride events and other things to do all across New York state. Uh, the governor hosted a WorldPride ambassador competition where we people submitted videos and we selected 11 ambassadors who highlighted the diversity of New York’s LGBTQ Movement, um, and they were invited to join us the proud march, the pride march in New York City. And, uh, we, of course we’re very involved.

Speaker 5: 49:05 While world pride was happening in New York City, the governor hosted a welcome reception, uh, head of the official welcome ceremony for World Pride at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Uh, the, I love New York pod was at several events throughout world pride, like family movie night in the pride fest. And the governor had a huge contingent in pride march, uh, which included our beautiful, I love New York Rainbow Harp balloons and confetti cannons and really letting people know that I love New York was welcomed in here to New York. Right. And just kind of add on to Ross’s point, I think, you know, for everything that we did, we saw an incredible reach, um, from heritage or pride. We received, this is actually the largest LGBTQ event in history with a record. 5 million people in attendance. Okay. It was also the largest event in New York City history, which is pretty incredible.

Speaker 5: 49:58 Uh, more than 632 I was in people watch the live broadcast on ABC seven. Okay. Okay. [inaudible] pride March, and that’s nearly 2.5 times the viewership in 2018. It was also officially the longest pride march in the world with over 150 [inaudible] marchers, 750 plus marching groups, and over 150 floats. Uh, they saw that pride fest pride fest numbers nearly doubled this year with over 650,000 attendees. Opening ceremony alone was, uh, over 8,500 people and closing ceremony included 150,000 a plus attendees. And just anecdotally, um, you know, we saw from some of our members who had those WorldPride events. In other words, [inaudible] of the state at the Fed are more art museum. Paid attendance was well up over 20% year over year, mainly because of that herb Ritts exhibit that they had. People really love the images and the museum. The museum actually saw slightly younger demographic. And for the conversation with Bishop Jean Robinson and Judy Shepherd at the Chautauqua Institution, uh, Emily told us that longterm [inaudible] for the week programming actually outpaced projections by nearly a thousand additional attendees. So that was really amazing after all the promotions that we put into everything.

Speaker 4: 51:22 Yeah. That, that is amazing. And, and that, that’s one of the things that I just love about, uh, you know, this program and that you took this, uh, internationally known event, you know, this opportunity that was happening in New York City and were able to successfully spread it across all of New York state and, you know, and share the exposure for the entire state with this, with this a really important travel market. Um, I find it really, you know, exciting and those numbers are impressive, Sarah.

Speaker 5: 51:54 Yeah. Yeah. It’s really incredible.

Speaker 4: 51:56 Yeah. That’s amazing. So what is one thing that you learned from being part of this program?

Speaker 5: 52:03 Well, I mean, I think for one we learned the value of really maximizing kind of these, hopefully these high profile anniversaries and special events. You know, when you know an event is coming up, you have the advantage of being able to plan further out and executing a really robust, multifaceted campaign. Um, you know, uh, it particularly for something like this for, I love New York, it was particularly well suited because we had an island, New York LGBT program. It really was a natural for us. Um, and we, you know, we also made us realize that it’s, it’s often much more efficient and effective to latch onto an event that’s already, you know, has people’s attention is going to get their attention than it is to just try to create something from scratch yourself. So I think what we learned is, uh, being aware of what’s happening, recognizing the opportunities that are there, particularly ones that are suited and, and strategically fit in with the projects you’re doing and then, you know, using them to the Max for their maximum effect.

Speaker 5: 53:11 Yeah, yeah. I would just add on top of that. Um, you know, especially with these events or anniversaries or specific conferences, it helps us build relationships with these more niche travel market, you know, especially WorldPride where it’s so New York City centric. Um, we were able to really grow that and expand it beyond the city region and [inaudible] by building those relationships with this market, we can also continue interacting with these travelers, just giving them more reasons to come back to New York, stay and return for future vacation, um, especially outside of New York City. Um, and into other regions.

Speaker 4: 53:49 Yeah, absolutely. I, I think that, uh, the, the, some of the assets that you have now because of, because of this experience I’m sure are going go a long way for future tourism. So Sarah and Ross, what does being a tourism excellence award winner mean to you?

Speaker 5: 54:06 Yeah, we really value our partnerships with the local [inaudible] and in New York state tourism industry. Um, so to have our peers recognize our contribution, uh, just the New York state tourism is really very fulfilling. You know, the respect of our peers is probably the most important respect we could ever receive. So it really is quite meaningful. Yeah. And I completely agree with what Ross said and specifically for a program, uh, that’s just world pride where our success really hinged on the relationship and the content that was being provided by our industry partners. Um, you know, it’s, it’s an honor to be recognized by our peers in a way that really just gives us the validation that we’re doing good work and we are respected and we’re ultimately viewed as a benefit to the tourism industry as a whole. So it’s a really great honor.

Speaker 4: 54:56 That’s terrific. Well, thank you so much for taking some time out to talk with us today, and we’ll look forward to seeing you accept that award in September at the, uh, annual meeting for the New York State Tourism Industry Association.

Speaker 5: 55:09 Yeah, it should be very exciting. Thank you. Yeah, thanks, Nicole.

Speaker 1: 55:12 It’s time to hit the road again. Visit destination on the left.com during your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.

Speaker 6: 55:55 [inaudible].

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