'Tourism Summit' Held in New York

Instead of promoting counties, Gov. Cuomo wants to promote regions--including those popular for wine tourism

by Linda Jones McKee
new york state tourism
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center) discusses plans to increase tourism in widespread state regions including Long Island and the Finger Lakes.
Albany, N.Y.—It’s May. The weather is finally warm, the sun is shining and people are eager to get out on the road. What better time to talk about promoting tourism in any state? Wednesday in Albany, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took that concept very seriously as he convened a “Tourism Summit” to generate ideas for increasing what is already a $92 billion industry in New York. The summit was similar to previous events the Cuomo administration has organized to promote other economic sectors, including one in October 2012 about wine, beer and spirits.

Approximately 200 tourism business operators, trade association leaders, state and local government officials and representatives from private industry attended the summit to present their ideas and hear the governor’s proposals. Cuomo has been actively seeking ways to boost the state’s economy, which has been in a slow recovery from the Great Recession.

In the past, the state has not focused much funding on promoting New York’s natural attractions, including the Finger Lakes. “Now is the time to tell New York’s story,” Cuomo declared and stated that some bragging is needed to help boost local economies and create jobs upstate by drawing money and visitors from other states and countries. He continued, “Right now it (the promotion in New York) is all county by county. That’s not working as well as it could.”

To address that problem, Cuomo announced a new program that will allocate $60 million for tourism promotion to encourage international and out-of-state tourists to visit upstate attractions as well as the beaches on Long Island. The state will work with the New York City Mass Transit Authority and the Port Authority, which will provide $2 million worth of advertising space on subways, bus and commuter rail systems and at airport arrival points to promote upstate tourism. In addition, television and print ads will market attractions by region within the state.

According to the Cuomo administration, tourism is the fifth largest employer in New York and supported 714,000 jobs and generated more than $29 billion in wages in 2012. The more than 202 million international and domestic visitors to the state spent $57 billion in direct tourism spending and generated $7 billion in state and local taxes.

Other suggestions at the Tourism Summit that may help wineries across New York included:

• Giving international visitors arriving at the state’s airports and staying in hotels a small, free taste of wine and beer made in New York and telling them how to visit the vineyards and breweries.

• Offer direct hotel booking and information about upstate tourism (including wine regions) to the millions of people flying into the state every year.

• Aggressively promote agriculture tourism to appeal to people who love to eat locally grown food and to drink local wines.

Jim Trezise, president of the New York Grape & Wine Foundation, noted in his May 4 newsletter, The Wine Press, that the governor had announced the Finger Lakes and Lake George have been rated among the world’s top lakeside vacation destinations by Yahoo! The natural beauty of the 11 lakes, more than 100 wineries surrounding them, recreational opportunities and friendly small towns were among the features that gave the Finger Lakes its rating.

According to Trezise, “Tourism is the lifeblood of the New York wine industry, which in turn is a major generator of tourism to many of New York’s rural areas. Of the 335 existing wineries, my guess is that about 300 would not exist without the direct sales opportunity that tourism provides. And without the more than 5 million tourist visits attracted by the wineries each year, many bed and breakfasts, hotels, restaurants, gas stations and limo/bus companies would not be here. It’s what they taught us in biology as a symbiotic relationship.”

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