Building the Staten Island Brand, with Colleen Siuzdak and Jennifer Sammartino

Episode 186

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Colleen Siuzdak is the Manager of VISIT Staten Island, a campaign run out of the Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. This office, created in June 2017, invites visitors to explore the borough’s many parks and cultural attractions, while encouraging residents to explore their own backyard – from the journey to Staten Island on the free Staten Island Ferry to the many offerings found in this Unexpected Borough. Jennifer Sammartino is a former journalist and experienced communications professional with a particular interest in serving the community. She’s fresh off serving as the first-ever Director of Tourism and Cultural Affairs for the Office of the Staten Island Borough President and looking forward to taking on new challenges as Deputy Chief of Staff. Destination on the Left is joined by Colleen Siuzdak and Jennifer Sammartino from the Staten Island Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. During our conversation, Colleen, Jennifer, and Nicole discuss the different ways VISIT Staten Island entices visitors to explore the Unexpected Borough. They talk about the challenges of marketing a destination so close to Manhattan, and the creative ways in which VISIT Staten Island has collaborated to boost tourism.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Colleen and Jennifer’s journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • How the free Staten Island Ferry has made an impact on the Unexpected Borough’s visitor numbers
  • Why the VISIT Staten Island campaign entices visitors to explore the many offerings of the Unexpected Borough
  • The challenges of marketing a destination in such close proximity to Manhattan
  • Creative ways in which VISIT Staten Island has collaborated to boost tourism
  • How the decline in international travel has impacted their marketing strategy
  • How Colleen and Jennifer have embraced Staten Island’s parks and lower population density as they restructure their marketing efforts
  • Best practices that have made Colleen and Jennifer’s partnerships successful
  • How Colleen and Jennifer are taking a more holistic approach to destination marketing

VISIT Staten Island

Colleen Siuzdak and Jennifer Sammartino join us from the office of the Staten Island Borough President, James. S. Oddo! Colleen is the manager of VISIT Staten Island, a campaign highlighting the borough’s many parks and cultural attractions for visitors and locals alike. Jennifer is the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. Together, they form an unstoppable destination marketing team. In our conversation, Colleen, Jennifer, and host, Nicole, discuss the different ways VISIT Staten Island entices visitors to explore the Unexpected Borough. They talk about the challenges of marketing a destination so close to Manhattan, and the creative ways in which VISIT Staten Island has collaborated to boost tourism.

The Unexpected Borough

As we all know, the tourism and hospitality industry is extremely competitive—especially when a destination is nestled in the heart of a tier-one city like NYC. To help the Unexpected Borough stand out from the crowd, Colleen and Jennifer stretched their creative and collaborative efforts as far as they would go. They worked with the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce to hire a marketing agency that could help with some of the heavy lifting. They held workshops with cultural stakeholders in the area such as museums and art galleries, so they could rebrand Staten Island through that lens. Colleen and Jennifer created a unique and refreshing image for Staten Island, which gave them a platform to form partnerships and build itineraries moving forward.

You Haven’t Seen New York Until You’ve Seen Staten Island

The ”Unexpected Borough” tag line has taken off, and people are using it everywhere. It has been so well-received because the entire campaign is completely void of desperation and packed with confidence. Staten Island isn’t begging people to visit, they are asserting the notion that you haven’t truly seen New York without visiting Staten Island. There is so much to offer, and so much love to spread, which is why Colleen and Jennifer have seen such a great return on their investment in this project. When people finally do get to see Staten Island, they are proactively sharing their experiences for the world to see. It has created a compound effect that is driving visitor traffic to this day.

Nicole Mahoney: 00:21 Hello listeners. This is Nicole Mahoney host of destination on the left. Welcome to this week’s episode with two brilliant guests Colleen Su Dag and Jennifer Sabatino from the office of the Staten Island borough president James as Otto. In our conversation we talk about the unexpected burro campaign that has helped boost tourism for Staten Island. We dig into how many visitors start their journey to Staten Island on the free Staten Island ferry and how this campaign entices them to see the many offerings of the unexpected burrow. We also talk about the challenges and opportunities that being next to the iconic Manhattan borough presents and creative ways that visit Staten Island has collaborated to boost tourism. A little more about Colleen. She is the manager of visit Staten Island a campaign run out of the Staten Island borough president James Otto’s Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. The office was created in June 2017 with its purpose to invite visitors to explore the boroughs many parks and cultural attractions while encouraging residents to explore their own backyard. And Jennifer Sabatino is the deputy chief of staff for the Staten Island borough president James US auto and oversees the Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:42 Now let’s get into the interview Colleen and Jan I’m so excited to have both of you on the show today. And I know you’re both going to provide so much insight for our listeners. But before we get started. Kathleen can you share a little bit about your story with our listeners in your own words. Would you tell this story. It’s just so much more context to our conversation.

Colleen Siuzdak: 02:07 Sure absolutely. Hi everyone. My name is calling Sue Zach and I’m the manager of visits Staten Island and I have been working with the Staten Island world presence office since September of 2017. I am a set downs are born and raised and what it was a great I was very excited to join the president’s team and thankful to Jen that she was able to bring me on. I have a B.A. in media studies with a focus on journalism from Hunter College and I’m actually currently working on a graduate degree in Public Administration and just a quick funny story of how I got to Borough Hall. So at the time in 2017 or the year prior I was actually a high school teacher teaching English at a local school on Staten Island and I was looking to branch out a little bit. I knew teaching wasn’t for me so I wanted to use my background in journalism and maybe go in to communications or something like that.

Colleen Siuzdak: 03:00 I actually went on a field trip with my students my senior students to borrow a hall to talk about two people with different careers. I happened to see Jen speak and she said she was the director of communications and I kind of just went on a limb and walked up to her and extra if they had any internships and she actually said to me well we don’t pay. And I said well that’s OK. I was just looking for experience and really I was very interested in communication especially in a political setting. So she was able to bring me on as an intern so I did that for about I want to say five or six months and then in the summer right before school started again she was able to offer me a full time position with visit Staten Island and I just wanted to add on my first day because I thought I was walking into this communications are ready to go and shoot the first thing she says to me and I’ll never forget is so we’re gonna do tourism now. And I said OK that’s right I’m up for anything. So again it’s just really great. I’m very happy grateful I was able to join Jen and the team for tourism and cultural affairs because I’m able to do something that I really love in my own hometown.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:11 Yeah I think that’s really awesome.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:13 And there’s a great lesson in there already because you know you had you had this career as a teacher and you were thinking about wanting to make a change and you took a chance and reached out and asked the question. I mean how many people just passed that you know pass that opportunity over and just you know come forward and ask Do you have you know an internship available. I think that’s just a question right there. We’re already off to a good start Colleen. So Jen you know obviously you’ve inspired Colleen quite a bit and I gave her that first chance at her internship which has led her to where she is. Can you tell us a little bit about your story in your own words again. So we we have some more context for our conversation.

Jennifer Sammartino: 05:00 Sure. Thank you. My name is Jennifer Martino. I am currently the deputy chief of staff at the office of President James auto. Here on Staten Island. I actually got my start. Well I was in college talking about the importance of internships and I’m sort of steering your your ship. My first internship was what the Staten Island Advance which is a daily newspaper here on Staten Island. It’s one of the few daily newspapers left in a relatively small municipality that is in a major city. And so I started there and I grew with them. I was there for several years and had decided at some point that you know with with the breath of the Internet and all the other sort of competition in the news space that it wasn’t for me anymore. And I decided to pivot my career to corporate communications and public relations.

Jennifer Sammartino: 05:51 So I did that for many years and in hospital administration. And then when President Otto had taken office as borough president he was a city councilman prior to that 15 years. I said to myself this is this is something this is a person I really want to work for. This is something I really want to do and I can be good. So I was able to get the job with him as his communications director and I did that for several years. And one of the things that I would really focus on was the Cultural Affairs piece of it and this sort of burgeoning tourism that was coming to Staten Island and made people around the world have heard of us because of the Staten Island ferry it’s the big orange boat. It’s free everybody rides this it’s one of those bucket list items when people come to New York City and I was always talking about that.

Jennifer Sammartino: 06:40 But we weren’t focusing on it. We were just it was just one more thing on the left. And so one day he said to me you know that thing you’re always talking about you should go do that thing. So they would tease me that I was running up and down the halls ringing my bell with my sandwich board that you have to pay attention to me and you have to pay attention to square words and culture. And so I was able to do that. So what Colleen said is absolutely true. I brought her in to be an intern in the communications department and in the four or five weeks that it took from the time we met to the time she was on leave from school and was able to intern without I had changed focus in my own career and the borough president gave me the opportunity to be the first director of Tourism and Cultural Affairs to the island ever had. So that was so exciting it remains exciting. And so I was thrilled that that to be able to do that but to also have company with me really from its inception. So this has been a really fun journey and now we’re not done yet. We have a lot more good work to do.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:38 Absolutely yeah. You know and it’s so interesting how themes start to emerge.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:43 And I love that you mention the internship and and your college experience and how that kind of was the building block that got you to where you are today. But the other thing that struck me that you talked about which was similar to what Coleen had said is that the bureau president Otto when he became bureau president you were moved by him or inspired by him and thought that you’d really like to work with him. Sounded to me like you know Colleen said the same thing. She heard you speak at that career day. Right. Which inspired her and you just really never know when you know you hear somebody speak or you meet someone and how that’s gonna change your trajectory right into what you’re pursuing.

Jennifer Sammartino: 08:29 It’s true. I mean as a young reporter I had covered for President Otto as a city councilman many many times and that many many meetings with have. And he is he’s passionate. He’s he’s creative piece on it. He’s he shoot from the hip you know all things that I really respect. And when an opportunity came to interview to be part of his team it just sort of all came together for me. I can be working with somebody that I really respect and doing really good things for my home community. And that’s sort of check all the boxes for me. So I’m incredibly fortunate to be where I am right now.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:05 I think that’s awesome. I love them.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:08 Well I want to dive right into these questions and we’re gonna start on the topic of creativity and how you know I’ll start with you.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:17 So the tourism and hospitality industry as we all know is very competitive and you know even where you are.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:25 I’m sure you have some unique competitive challenges being within New York City and all of the different choices that there are. But to do when you visit that area and so I’m wondering what you have done to really help Staten Island stand up proud right Nicole.

Colleen Siuzdak: 09:42 So you’re actually right with the you know since we are in a position right next to you in New York City but of course right from Manhattan which is of course where we know where a lot of visitors do go. However in the first year of this it’s an omission said as soon as I interned I was able to be a part of the the process of that which was wonderful. So we we really focus all our energy on rebranding so visits an item was actually created about 10 years prior to before the actual office was established. But you know it’s kind of just like an in-house project. There was never really any. They did a great job with the Web site but you know it was time for a new new face. So because of the collaboration with the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce we were actually able to hire so matter which is an agency based Manhattan.

Colleen Siuzdak: 10:28 And we basically conducted workshops with cultural stakeholders from museums art galleries all over Staten Island and figure out how did we see Staten Island. What did we want to put out there to the visitors and residents as well. So the results including the reveal are of our new tagline which I love. It’s called the unexpected borough. So that really has set us apart from the other bureaus and changed people’s view of setting out because we have often been known as the forgotten burrow. So that just that one change of tagline I think really puts out a a positive perspective which which I think Staten Island needed. And it really gave us a nice platform to continue going forward with making partnerships and creating itineraries and everything that comes within the tourism industry.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:16 I think that’s great. And I love that the unexpected bureau. And interesting how that kind of plays off of you know as you mentioned you had often been known as the forgotten bureau. So I think that that’s just fantastic and I know you probably have some more to share about that but before we get into that Jen do you have any other thoughts to add around this.

Jennifer Sammartino: 11:40 Sure. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with the Allen Chamber of Commerce to work with the state of New York with Empire State Development with another local group called Destination St. George to create that report matter. And aside from the unexpected burrow which people use now which is really exciting the thought of that brand sort of take off. But the other thing that we we really pivoted to was you’ve got to see that not please come see us. We’re not begging you to come see us. If you’ve got it yet you haven’t seen New York until you think that island. And I think a lot you know it just those little language changes I think really resonated with people and when they come and they visit us and they put up their their reviews whether it’s on TripAdvisor or Yelp or wherever it is you know they’re still excited to have been here and they agree with that. Yeah I wouldn’t have gotten the full experience of my flight had come there. So that feels really good to be validated. It’s not just the hometown girl that love it. We’re spreading that love around and people really enjoy the experience with it once they’ve been here.

Nicole Mahoney: 12:46 Yeah absolutely. And you know I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking with both of you at the New York State Tourism Industry Association events and I know you were honored with an award from nice idea for that tag in that campaign. And I’m wondering if Colleen you can talk a little bit about I remember from a previous conversation and share with our listeners a little bit about the role that the Staten Island Ferry played in your campaign and kind of how you the creative idea that you have and how you utilize that.

Colleen Siuzdak: 13:24 Yeah sure. So the sound very as well as everyone knows are most ever mostly everyone knows is a free ride between downtown Manhattan and downtown Staten Island. And Jen could probably add more to this too but we don’t we. At first wouldn’t be we didn’t want to be known as the big orange boat because you know we just we didn’t want to always be associated with that however we came to realize it’s the sundown ferry is really our front door it gives people that chance to get to Staten Island and then further explore. So I drove Jen wants to add eight so that I can talk about the challenge that we had was really besides being called the forgotten burro because so maybe we would ride this setting on ferry to take it to see the Statue of Liberty and then get off and then come back right to Manhattan.

Colleen Siuzdak: 14:11 This is actually also known as the Staten Island shuffle. They kind of just get off and go right back on. But so many visitors would often associate the Staten Island with the ferry and we want to change that. So we worked with our we have 20 cultural organizations on Staten Island who have an experience to offer. So we worked with them to see how can we package Staten Island and onto certain demographics create skewed me demographics creating itineraries and also working with NYC and Company to help them become ready for visitors again. New York City company has worked tremendously with us to get our attractions ready with their towards some ready program. So again while we do have that challenge we we really got right on it and have continued to work on that to improve our tourism initiative.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:59 Yeah I think that that’s just such a great program and I I love that you describe that free ride between downtown downtown Manhattan and downtown Staten Island as your front door.

Nicole Mahoney: 15:12 It’s just a really interesting way to frame that up and then to think about that asset in a much different way. And so John I’m I’m wondering if you have anything else you want to comment on to her.

Jennifer Sammartino: 15:24 Yeah. I mean we really did make a conscious decision to envelop the ferry as the front door to Staten Island. And it’s funny because to us it’s a commuter boat that loves you back and forth to the city but there’s so many people it’s it’s it’s exciting it’s fun and it’s free. Beautiful view of not only the Manhattan skyline and the Staten Island landscape but at the Statue of Liberty. So it was important to use that as the Segway to get people to everything else that that island has to offer.

Jennifer Sammartino: 15:57 So we’ve definitely embraced the big orange boat because we love it.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:04 And I tell you I hope I didn’t take away your answer to this much to my side by jumping on the big orange boat.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:11 But I love how creativity appears in the face of adversity your challenge and you’re certainly just described as a challenge you know with your description of the Staten Island shuffle and people just describing it off and getting right back on. I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about the challenges your face and it could be just one that I’ve already started down this path with you. And then what kind of creative solution you’ve come up with to kind of offset that challenge.

Colleen Siuzdak: 16:43 Sure. Well like I said before really our biggest challenge was the Staten Island shuffle. And I hate to bring that back again. It just it it is taking us. You know it really we really took all of our energy to make sure we rebranded in a fun friendly way so people would be excited about Staten Island. I’m not just the visitors of course but the residents as well. And then you know I as a sign on to myself and as a commuter to school I would see the same thing you were getting off the ferry turning around and going back to Manhattan. You know you see people holding their their group tour signs and so it was basically how do we capitalize on all these people coming through the St. George ferry terminal. That you know like thousands thousands every day. So that’s why I hate to go back to that but that really was our biggest challenge again and especially with the term Forgotten Borough like you.

Colleen Siuzdak: 17:35 That’s very hard to get rid of when people are literally turning round and going back to Manhattan after they took the Staten Island ferry. So it’s a little mindblowing to me. But so so basically a creative solution to that was with the help of an Empire State Development grant that we were able to get with the set on Chamber of Commerce as well as destination St. George. As John mentioned we were able to buy advertisements for a few months that were shown digitally on the Manhattan side to basically try to grab the audience before they start their actual journey on the Staten Island ferry. We were hoping that you know if they saw this big star sign with visit Staten Island dot com with a message saying something like visit nature visit history visit fund with different images of Staten Island that they would you know kind of maybe take out their smartphone or you know you know just keep in mind that there is something to do on Staten Island because again that’s another message we are trying to to battle or to tackle ways that people would say oh there’s something to do there just go round and go right back to Manhattan.

Colleen Siuzdak: 18:36 But we wanted to of course change that. So and what was really exciting is that this was the first time we were able to do something like that is to take digital advertising on the Manhattan side to really grab those visitors who are taking the Staten Island ferry.

Nicole Mahoney: 18:51 Yeah I think that’s cool and I’m I’m glad that we’re talking about this because yeah it was a challenge but also you saw for the opportunity that it was. I mean how many destinations have all of these visitors that are being you know literally dropped right off their front door. And so it seems to me like that was just a really great opportunity and really good vision for you to see that and then to work together to figure out how to solve you know how to solve for that and how to encourage people to spend more time in Staten Island. Jen did you have any other things that you want to add to that.

Jennifer Sammartino: 19:29 You know we were happy to do that. It was exciting it was fun and even for Staten Islanders I think there was it added an additional layer of hometown pride to see these advertised men who are the wonderful locations to remind them of what a beautiful place they live in and remind them to visit also you know be a visitor in your own neighborhood and see that museum maybe you haven’t been to in a while. So all the way around I think it was it was fun. It was smart and you know quite frankly we don’t have the being true to markets Staten Island internationally. So we let everybody else do that. And then once there at that very you know we’ve got that captive audience. And we were able to capitalize on it and it was it was really a great partnership.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:14 That’s a that’s a really great point. I love that. So Jenn looking into the future are there any projects that you’re really excited about that you’d like to share with our listeners.

Jennifer Sammartino: 20:25 So there were a lot of things we were really excited about and we remain excited and we remain very optimistic. But the reality is we are in a really challenging time right now in the world and in New York City in particular Kobe 19 has really changed our landscape and we have really had to and we still are in the thick of it in terms of rethinking how we position ourselves. And I think we’ve gotten tremendous support from the borough president from the governor. And I’m very confident that as New York state begins to reopen at with this faith in approach with the governor and the mayor talking about that we can really help our destination here on the island to be ready to do that. And and when we’re ready to reopen we will be a safe place for people to come. So I think that that’s something that we we are going to be spending a lot of time on is making sure that all of our destinations have the tools and the resources that they need to reopen safely so that people can feel good about going to those locations.

Jennifer Sammartino: 21:34 So we really need to rethink that strategy. And we need to rethink change the way we think about who’s coming to visit us because the reality is we’re not going to get the international tourists. We’re not going to get them this season we may not even get them next year. So we need to look at domestic tourism and how that what that shift looks like. People will be driving here instead of taking that ferry boat. So we need to think about how we welcome people who are driving in and coming from all different locations and how we can help them to have a really great time while they’re here on the island. But again I think the most important thing is that people understand that we are gearing up we will be ready for them and they will be safe when they get here.

Nicole Mahoney: 22:17 I think those are really great points and that’s what everyone wants to know right now.

Nicole Mahoney: 22:21 I think people are you know dreaming and itching to get out and travel and have you know some of those experiences that they may have been on their bucket list or just to get out. And I think that they really though want to know that they’re going to be safe. They’re going to want to know what is the experience going to be like and they’re going to want some reassurances. I also really appreciate you pointing out that the international travel might not or is not probably going to rebound as quickly and that you have to rethink your market. And how interesting is that. We just spent a lot of time talking about the orange boat but now your visitors might not be coming.

Nicole Mahoney: 23:03 The both are going to be driving and so I think that’s just a really great great point and really gives our listeners some things to think about as they’re thinking about helping their community reopen.

Jennifer Sammartino: 23:16 It’s true. I mean one of the things that really worked for Staten Island in context of the entire city of New York is that we are also known as the burro of park. We have more parks and open spaces than anybody else in the city. And that means that if you choose to want to be alone in a big city this will be a great place to do that. There’s plenty of park there’s beaches there’s promenade. There’s boardwalk. I mean there’s lakes there. There’s hiking there’s all kinds of opportunities to still experience the outdoors in the city of New York without necessarily being elbow to elbow with strangers. So it really is a land of opportunity in terms of how people want to visit it and how they want to experience it. We can offer so many different kinds of experiences.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:04 I think that’s also a really great point. You’re really thinking about what it is that people might be seeking out and also highlighting some of the strengths that you have to offer in terms of offering that level of of ease and confidence that when I come to visit you know I do have these options.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:22 There are a lot of outdoor options and it’s not just crowded city with crowded transportation and you know maybe things that might not feel as safe right now.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:35 So I think that that’s that’s fantastic. So Kathleen you must be really busy right now as well as the tourism director for tourism.

Colleen Siuzdak: 24:44 Oh yeah. You know you know just kind of you know say positive. And I’m glad you brought up the borough Parks because you know when. You know before of course everything happens. You know I was we were doing farm tours left and right with international tourists and and some a lot of them if not all said they love. They loved coming to sign on because it was away from the hustle and bustle of New York City meaning in heaven. So we really have an advantage when it again when we again restructure our tourism strategies because we can focus on the domestic tourism but also like Jen said we have this great asset of being the burro of parks when you know in a time where people do just want to get out and be and do the right thing by social distancing at this time. So you know it’s very interesting and I’m learning quite a lot which is also great to have you know from you know we have all our partners in the city and the state. And it’s been great to learn and how we can move forward.

Nicole Mahoney: 25:46 Absolutely. So I want to touch on collaboration and we’ve already talked about it so much just in talking about your you know your rebrand and the collaboration that that happened there between the ESD and destination St. George and then your liberation with your cultural organizations in New York City and companies.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:08 So it’s really hard to talk about creativity and tourism without talking about collaboration.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:14 But I’m just a really huge believer in this whole idea of what I like to call COBOL petition. You know we’re competitors may be perceived competitors come together and create something bigger together than they can do on their own. And so Kathleen I’m wondering if there is an example of collaboration that. Has worked for you that comes to mind that you can share with our listeners.

Colleen Siuzdak: 26:39 Sure. So as we said before you know our competitor I guess quote unquote would be Manhattan. You know we’re very close and a lot of visitors go to Manhattan first before even thinking about maybe Staten Island. However we again since it first started. We have created an amazing relationship with the Downtown Alliance in Manhattan. We’re really it’s been helping us figure out the dos and don’ts of tourism since they have been in the industry much longer than us. So it’s really nice to talk to someone who has already done it. So this way we can you know learn you know like kind of learn from their mistakes or or learn from their successes and really take that on to you know first downtown Staten Island and beyond. And because of this partnership which is really interesting we have learned that about 30 percent of the questions their staff members get around the Whitehall Ferry terminal are actually about Staten Island people want to know what is the Staten Island ferry.

Colleen Siuzdak: 27:35 What is there to do on sitting on you know what. Where can I get information. So that is a huge number in my opinion for the amount of people they serve because you know especially on a nice day. And then notice how many people are actually going through the Whitehall Ferry terminal on the Manhattan side. So from this information which is great again from the partnership of the Downtown Alliance we were able to solidify the need to market on the Manhattan side with those ads as well as exchange pamphlet information with any downtown Manhattan attractions that they connected us with and also the hotels which is another market that they were able to introduce us to.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:13 I think that’s that’s fantastic and what great data to know and to understand you know that they are getting those questions and then to be able to work together to figure out how to solve for that by doing this pamphlet exchange program I think is just a really really great idea.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:31 Jen did you have any other examples or anything to add to that.

Jennifer Sammartino: 28:36 That’s actually the best example we have because to be honest with you when we first approached them we thought they’re not gonna want anything to do with us. You know we’re small potatoes compared to them all the thing. And then when we sat down with them not only did we learn that one of the most popular questions they get is about an island that they felt inferior to say the Time Square folk. So we all sort of have this commonality where we all have competition. But again to your point where one rises we all rise. And we make this destination that much stronger because there are so many different opportunities there. So it’s really been a fantastic collaboration.

Nicole Mahoney: 29:13 Yeah absolutely. And I just thought of as you’re saying that is not only did you solve you know the problem about needing the information but also you’ve enhanced the visitor experience and the visitor wanted that information right. And they want to experience that island as well as Manhattan.

Jennifer Sammartino: 29:32 So it just really makes a lot of sense.

Nicole Mahoney: 29:35 I think that Colleen I’m wondering when you’ve worked with all of these various collaboration if you have any best practices or ideas that you can share with our listeners that have really made those partnerships successful.

Colleen Siuzdak: 29:55 Yeah. No definitely. So you know but I just want to preface this with. You know I went into journalism because I wanted to meet people and talk to people and then when I was able to become full time with Jen you know in the Towards and Cultural Affairs Office I literally did just that. So it’s it’s really interesting me because you know we partnered with again Downtown Alliance nice city as you mentioned. I love New York New York City and company and there there are many others but maintaining those relationships we have found is key for a successful partnership. I’m just getting in the same room with fellow tourism stakeholders in and enhancing those collaboration by seeing wherever we can fit into that particular endeavor because Ashton said you know it’s you know. You know when I was looking I was think about competition it really is about how can we know one works we can all work together sort of thing. So I’m sorry one rise we all rise. So at this point we have been able to see successful partnerships through these networking events with my city in New York City and company which has really brought our tourism efforts to another level that we are really excited about because as Jen said you know we we’re not stopping. We’re continuing to develop and grow and we are excited to see what the future holds.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:08 I think that’s really great advice.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:10 I mean there’s it’s one thing to start those relationships and I love that you that you talked about that you know that you have the relationship a nice guy. I love New York and my singing company but it’s another thing to maintain them and to nurture with them and to to take advantage of those networking opportunities to make sure you’re in the room when you know when your peers are meetings and work to form ideas and work where collaboration is makes sense.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:38 And so I think that’s just a really great point. It’s really having the relationships but then the importance of maintaining them and building up them and then did you have any other words of wisdom around collaboration.

Jennifer Sammartino: 31:53 It probably isn’t something that people don’t already know. But I think you know being relatively new to the tourism industry I mean we really kick this up about three three and a half years ago. You know I was delighted to find really genuinely good people in this industry across the board. This is not cutthroat. This is a I’m going to steal your idea. This was truly something that was eye opening for me that night. It’s not about wishing you or someone else can get ahead. It’s about well this work for me it might work for you or you know really just talking through things and sharing ideas. You know I sat down with people from other counties in New York State. I sat down with people from the state of Michigan. It doesn’t matter. We all have really similar story.

Jennifer Sammartino: 32:39 I don’t want a story to tell but experiences and some of these practices are best practices for a reason. And it’s just so wonderful that you can sit down with somebody and immediately have the common bond and then be able to really trust each other and have a really open conversation about challenges and goals. And it’s really just been such a pleasure to work in this industry.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:04 You know I think I hear that a lot from you know from the guest that I have on the show but also you know I think it’s just it is such a great industry and people are so open. I think you make a really good point. You know you have this level of trust and this commonality with each other and you’re willing to just just share and that’s actually what we’re doing right now. And what you’re doing right now by sharing all of your experiences and all of your ideas so that others can take some of this and do good within their own destinations. I think that that’s just fantastic luck. So Colleen. This is our last question.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:45 I really appreciate both you and Jen being joining us today. Being on the show this last question is actually becoming one of my favorite questions because especially in times like these you know I’ve seen an evolution of destination marketers becoming more community managers being taking a more holistic approach to managing their destinations brand and story and engaging more with locals the same time. And I’m curious if you are seeing examples of this in your evolution in your work and I just think it’s a fitting question of course given the times that we’re in right now.

Colleen Siuzdak: 34:27 Sure. So from the beginning a visit set in Ireland we have always been mindful of not only exposing the wonderful and quote unquote unexpected attractions to visitors reminding Staten Islanders what is in their own backyard. Of course since I joined the team back in 2017 I me as a Staten Islanders I have learned so much about the people who make up these cultural organizations and how hard they work and their stories and the people they are the people they are trying to represent. For example we have so many icons that are in each museum or art gallery that need to be told their stories need to be told. So we wanted visits announce rebranding to attract visitors of course to get off the scent on ferry but also be something that said I was proud of and I like with that rebranding. We were able to tell more of the stories of Staten Islanders which is really exciting for me.

Colleen Siuzdak: 35:23 Since visit sign on is actually a part of the Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office we are in a great position to serve our cultural non-profit organizations and the central community while showcasing those hidden gems that we have to the entire world and beyond. So it’s again going back to the local stories it really is about the people and again I’m so grateful I’m able to talk to all of the board members and the staff of each cultural organization to see you know how you know how they’ve been telling their story and how they want us to tell their story to these visitors who are coming off the ferry or coming in from all over.

Nicole Mahoney: 36:03 Absolutely. And that’s a really great point you are in a unique position because your office is in the Cultural Affairs Office as well which gives you that kind of added reach back into the community that maybe others don’t have. That’s really great.

Nicole Mahoney: 36:18 And John do you have any anything to add to that.

Jennifer Sammartino: 36:22 I think one of the more rewarding things that come out of this effort is that Colby and I started a work group actually we several recruits for the group was one where we had many of our all of our cultural organization hotel some small businesses but mostly nonprofit come to the table and talk and exchange ideas and really figure out how they support each other because again when one rises we all rise. And historically this was a group that was sort of fighting for the almighty dollar and we understand that. But at the end of the day isn’t it better to have a pulse on what other people are doing and work together and create a synergy then then not be in communication with each other. So and I think that the the organizations that are part of our work group see the value of that as well. So that’s a really rewarding sort of byproduct of our effort.

Nicole Mahoney: 37:18 Yeah I think that’s great. What a what a great idea. And I love that you’ve said this phrase a few times but I want to repeat repeat it that one when one rises we all rise. I think that’s just a fantastic fantastic point and a great way to end our conversation and so before we say goodbye Calvin Do you have any final thoughts for our listeners and also if you can share where our listeners might connect with you.

Colleen Siuzdak: 37:45 Sure. So you can find all the information on our Web site which is w w w dot visit Staten Island dot com. You also follow us on Facebook Instagram and Twitter and I could share with you Nicole those exact handles if you could share that with the centers. And I just wanted to say you know again I really think that has a lot to offer and. Thank you Nicole for giving us the opportunity to again once again showcase what we do have because I’m looking forward to visits in the future. You know when we are able to and is very excited what’s the come.

Nicole Mahoney: 38:21 Absolutely. And how about you Jen any final thoughts.

Jennifer Sammartino: 38:26 Sure. You know that island is incredibly old destination. We are the southernmost point of New York State. I have a friend who calls that island the forest gump of American history all kinds of weird things have happened here. Coincidental things that happened here. And I do believe it has something for everyone. But more importantly what I want to say to our colleagues in the industry is this too shall pass. We will get through that. We have a couple of rough. I think you’re the head of. But if we’re all traveling and visiting each other domestically that’s fantastic and we’ll learn more about each other and we’ll support each other. And again this will pass and I just want to wish everybody well.

Nicole Mahoney: 39:08 Absolutely. Thank you so much. And I really appreciate both of you taking some time out today. We’ll look forward to coming to visit when when we can. Thank you Nicole.

Nicole Mahoney: 39:20 Thank you. 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 weekly I see why am I. In case you missed it. E newsletter each week along with our podcast episode. We share an article written by one of the break the ice media team numbers about the travel and tourism industry. Our articles mirror the mix of industry segments and topics similar to this podcast. Join our newsletter text D O T L 2 6 6 8 6 6 or visit. Break the ice media dot com forward slash blog.

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