Officials Cite Hope for NYS Tourism Growth

Posted December 27, 2013

Chemung County official hopeful about NY tourism growth
By Ashley Hupfl with Jeff Murray, The Star-Gazette, 12/26/13

ALBANY — The number of visitors to New York this year will hit 219 million people, a 4 percent increase from last year, state officials said.

Tourism in New York fueled $61 billion in spending this year, up 7 percent from 2012, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a report.

The increase of about 8.8 million visitors was aided by a state-funded ad campaign and events like the PGA Championship in Rochester and food festivals.

“This year my administration made it a priority to showcase the Empire State as the go-to destination for visitors from around the world,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The report said that the New York tourism industry generated $7.7 billion in state and local tax revenue, up from $7.2 billion a year ago, and led to a 3 percent increase in job growth in the sector. The industry accounts for one in 12 jobs in New York.

A more serious approach by the state to marketing upstate tourism is welcome news to tourism officials in the Elmira area, who say it helped them start a turnaround from disastrous numbers early in the year.

All area tourism indicators were down throughout 2013, but did show improvement as the year went on.

“Our measures are room occupancy and room tax and sales tax and the (first quarter) numbers were all bad,” said Kevin Keeley, president of the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce. “At least the hemorrhaging stopped. The third quarter results we got in September, the sales tax numbers were not off as badly, nor was the room tax. We think we turned the corner.

“Our hope is working with the state, which is spending more on tourism, we’re hopeful the new year will see some hint of recovery going back the other way,” Keeley said. “It’s more of an acknowledgment by Albany that if you make investment in tourism promotion outside of Manhattan you will get an increased return. That’s delightful for us to realize that the governor and state economic officials understand it.”

Cuomo has boosted funding for tourism and developed new initiatives aimed particularly at drawing tourists and residents in New York City to upstate. It comes after tourism funding was cut for years due to budget woes.

The state spent nearly $60 million this year on tourism, mainly through its revamped “I Love NY” campaign. The state spent $19 million the prior year.

During a Tourism Summit at the Capitol last May, the New York City area transit authorities agreed to do a “Get Outta Town” campaign that promoted upstate through 6,400 posters on platforms, trains, subways and buses.

The state developed a Taste NY initiative for state wine and beer that was promoted through the Governor’s Cup Wine Tour in the Finger Lakes last summer.

Local tourism officials said the event, as well as others, have helped promote their regions. Taste NY participated in roughly 15 events this year, including the Hudson Valley Food and Wine Fest last September in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County.

Tourism leaders said they awaiting regional data on the year’s tourism results.

“[The Governor’s Cup Wine Tour] certainly had positive effects on tourism. We’re still in the process of measuring the success of it,” said Cynthia Kimble, president of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance in Penn Yan. “We’ve had more requests for our Finger Lakes Tourism Guide, and we’ve seen an increase in visits to our website; both of those are usually indicators that folks are planning a vacation and use our tools to do that.”

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