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Destination On The Left

Destination On The Left is a podcast focused on the travel and tourism industry that explores successful collaborations, creative marketing ideas and best practices. Interviews are a mix of Destination Marketers, Industry Leaders, Consultants and businesses in the industry. We explore consumer marketing programs and travel trade marketing programs. This podcast provides an opportunity for professionals in the travel & tourism industry to share what they have learned and successes that they have achieved.
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Now displaying: September, 2019
Sep 25, 2019

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 DMCOC 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

Russ Levi is the Executive Director of I Love NY, which is receiving an Excellence in Niche Marketing Award. Together with Sarah Emmer, Director of Tourism Policy Initiatives, Russ 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. Russ and Sarah learned the value of niche partnerships from around the world and how to leverage those. They also appreciated the opportunity to use a historical event to effectively market and celebrate their cause. The outcomes were spectacular. They are both honored to have their efforts toward a cause they believe invalidated by recognition through this Excellence Award.

Overview

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 DMCOC 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.

Resources:

Episode Transcript

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Sep 18, 2019

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:

  • David Lee, Marketing Operations Manager at the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection
  • Rob Casetti, Senior Director at Corning Museum of Glass
  • Jennifer Sammartino, Deputy Chief of Staff for Visit Staten Island
  • Scott Keller, Executive Director of Hudson Valley River National Heritage Area
  • Jennifer Ackerson, owner of ALON Marketing Group

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • David Lee’s best advice to tourism marketing professionals from his experiences at the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection and other places
  • The 150-year history of glass in Corning and what Corning Museum of Glass did to make their monumental Glass Barge project a resounding success
  • How Jennifer Sammartino and Visit Staten Island took their destination from “the fifth borough” to a vibrant, bustling destination with a great waterfront corridor
  • The ingenuity of Scott Keller’s Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area team, as they devised an app to tell the story of all the national heritage sites along the Hudson River Rail line.
  • What Jennifer Ackerson and her company, ALON Marketing Group, do to give back to New York’s destinations and teach the state’s businesses how to grow and be successful tourism spots

Finger Lakes Visitors Connection

David Lee is the Marketing Operations Manager for the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, a position he has held for almost four years. Prior to that, David got his start busing tables, bartending, and eventually managing the IT at Lakes Nama and Canandaigua. David’s technological experience helped him land a job in tourism, where he has stayed for the past ten years. In the tourism industry, David has come to love helping people spend their free time enjoying themselves in the places that he’s grown up. He likes shaping experiences and seeing the things he’s worked so hard on benefit people directly, even if it’s just a map helping them to find their way. David encourages all tourism professionals to embrace their own leadership if they want to find themselves in management positions. He stressed creativity, knowing your strengths, and knowing your weaknesses when making decisions and taking on projects. Finally, David reminds all of us of how crucial it is that we take risks, be vulnerable, and make mistakes to learn and grow as tourism professionals. Following this advice is how David won the Excellence in Young Professional Leadership Award.

Corning Museum of Glass

Rob Casetti is the Senior Director at the Corning Museum of Glass and the recipient of the Excellence in Overall Tourism Marketing Award. Starting out as a designer and project planner, early tourism struggles led Rob to trust in data and customer behavior to drive creativity and innovation. Since then, he and his team have engaged in numerous complex projects, including the now award-winning Glass Barge. The barge explores 150 years of glass history in New York, with 30 stops spread across five months stretching from Brooklyn to Buffalo to the Finger Lakes. This barge celebrates the voyage of glass from Corning to Brooklyn that occurred right after the Civil War. It features live glassblowing demonstrations, historic sites, authentic maritime travel, and many other attractions along the way. Rob credits the success of such a massive undertaking to partnerships with numerous outlets, including CVBs, museums, markets, and other locales. Understanding the complexity of the project and leveraging these partnerships helped bring the Glass Barge to 55,000 people, an amazing number. Rob is humbled to receive the award and knows how incredible it is to be recognized in a tourist state as great as New York.

Visit Staten Island

Jennifer Sammartino is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Visit Staten Island and the recipient of the Excellence in Tourism Marketing Projects Award. In 2017, Jennifer was made Director of Tourism for New York’s fifth borough, which suffered from a reputation problem for a long time. While it doesn’t have Times Square or the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island is home to a pleasant mix of urban and rural areas, plenty of fun activities, historic Richmondtown, and the state’s only Tibetan museum. The hard part was building the borough’s waterfront corridor, raising awareness, and attracting tourists by removing negative stereotypes. Through collaboration with Empire State Development, I Love New York, The Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, and others, Jennifer and her team were able to elevate Staten Island. Popular tourist destinations and transportation outlets were prime targets for marketing campaigns while talking to the locals about why they loved Staten Island gave Jennifer a special lens through which to view the borough. The combination of partnership and local stories informed her team and helped them to revitalize Staten Island’s image as a fun tourist attraction, not just New York’s fifth borough.

Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area

Scott Keller is the Executive Director of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and recipient of the Excellence in Tourism Marketing Projects Award. Scott’s team developed a river and train tour app for riders of the Hudson Line between New York City and Albany. The app runs based on the theme of “What’s out the window?” When riders see something out of the train window or along the river, they can enter the app and explore six different themes, each one packed with historical information and stories about all of the sights to see. The trip was inspired by kayaking tours down the Hudson River and later evolved into a printed map of national heritage sites before finally becoming an app. While Scott acknowledges the difficulty of building, maintaining, and paying for an app, he credits his success to hard work and partnerships with places like Empire State Development and the app development company Oncell. Scott is honored to receive the award and blaze a new trail for Hudson River Valley tourism.

Alon Marketing Group

Jennifer Ackerson is the owner of ALON Marketing Group and a recipient of an Excellence in Leadership Award. She got her start in tourism at Discover Long Island 25 years ago. Jen has since built her consultancy and seen the tourism marketing industry grow and evolve, all while keeping her favorite things about it: creativity, partnerships, and helping destinations succeed. She loves teaching and giving back to the communities she helps and stays motivated by working with people and destinations she cares about. Her marketing consulting company, ALON Marketing Group, has partnered with New York City to roll out a training program delivering all of her knowledge from 20 years of tourism marketing experience. The program will train businesses in sales, marketing, operations, and how to attract more tourism. Jen recommends all tourism leaders ask questions, network, follow up, and represent themselves well to see results in the industry. She thinks the award is very cool, and is honored to receive it.

Overview

The common theme amongst all of these Excellence Award winners is the creativity, tenacity, and collaboration they have all brought to the table in different ways. Finger Lakes Visitors Connection’s David Lee is young but has the experience and spunk of an industry veteran. The Corning Museum of Glass achieved a colossal feat with its Glass Barge through partnerships and elbow grease. Visit Staten Island helped bring Staten Island from the back of people’s minds to the forefront of NYC tourism. Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area helped use modern technology to pique people’s curiosity about all of the exciting sights along the Hudson River. ALON Marketing Group brings Jennifer Ackerson’s 20+ years of experience to businesses and tourism professionals across New York in a friendly, teachable way. All of these award winners have helped foster innovation and drive New York’s tourism industry forward, and I am honored to speak with all of them about their accomplishments.

Resources:

Episode Transcript

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Sep 11, 2019

Judi Hess is the Director of Visit Binghamton, a position she has held since June 2016. Prior to her promotion, Judi was the Manager of Tourism & Special Events for over 20 years. Visit Binghamton is a department of the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce that is focused on increasing tourism in Broome County. Visit Binghamton is the official tourism promotion agency for Broome County. Judi has been with Visit Binghamton since 1995.

Visit Binghamton focuses on tourism promotion, consumer marketing, cooperative advertising programs and making sales calls on professional planners (sporting groups, conventions, and tour groups). Tourism is an ever-changing industry with new initiatives and opportunities, and Judi welcomes the opportunity to never stop learning and taking on new challenges. Additionally, she serves on several local committees and works closely with our elected officials and hospitality industry partners.

In 2017 the new Visit Binghamton brand was unveiled, giving the CVB a new look, new direction, and new energy. The rebrand is one of Judi’s proudest accomplishments.

Judi enjoys travel and experiencing new things as well as exploring the community she lives in. From great dining and craft beverages to taking in a hockey game, life is good! A lifelong resident of Broome County, she sees her work as a way to let everyone know what a great place this is to visit, live and work.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Judi Hess about her rebrand of Visit Binghamton and the variety of partnerships and creative solutions she’s used to craft a spectacular destination.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How a rebrand revitalized Binghamton’s tourism industry and the creativity that Judi and her team put into that
  • The challenges that have brought out Judi’s creativity and how she and her team stepped up and tackled the adversity
  • Judi’s team’s usage of technology and video to promote Binghamton
  • Unique strategies Judi has used to expand Binghamton’s reach over social media
  • All of the collaborations that have helped Binghamton blossom as a tourist destination
  • Creating strong partnerships and steps you can take to help parties relate to each other
  • Engaging the local community to improve satisfaction for both visitors and people who live at your destinations

A Creative Rebrand

Binghamton is a vibrant and bustling part of New York that’s growing in popularity with each day. We can point to many factors for its success, and one of them is the fresh new take on its tourism department, Visit Binghamton. The department has its director, Judi Hess, to thank for its recent 2017 rebrand. Judi is very proud of this accomplishment, and I was happy to have her share it with me.

Judi and her team saw the incredible things happening in their community and knew it was time for a change. With live music almost every night and art galleries opening up where there used to be cigar factories, Visit Binghamton brought restaurants, hotels, government officials, and university representatives to help answer one question: Who are we? This collaboration helped them realize the importance of the individual contributions of every person, whether local or visiting from across the country. Visit Binghamton came out with a fresh new tagline: “Be a Part of Our Story”.

Bold colors and prints for the new brand perfectly compliment exciting new developments in Binghamton’s tourist industry. Imagine seeing Animal Adventure Park, an interactive animal exhibit with giraffes, zebras, monkeys, and more. The growing beer industry is promoted by inner tube rides down the Beer Tree River, while the hospitality section has had a drone fly through. It’s no wonder people from across the world tune in to Binghamton’s social media!

Creating Strong Partnerships

Judi’s team couldn’t have done it without the collaborations and partnerships they built along the way. One of the most important, the LUMA Projection Arts Festival, helped Binghamton break into event marketing in an awesome and special way. Connecting LUMA to I Love NY and other NY marketing brands grew the event into a huge and successful show. Using hospitality, restaurants, and travel writing partners has helped this event and partnership blossom in an incredible way.

Transparency is one of the key features of partnerships with Judi’s team. By leveraging existing partnerships and introducing those people to new potential collaborators, channels of communication are opened and people begin to speak the same language. Judi’s team acts as a middle man to create strong bonds between organizations and weave a network of cooperation that has helped bring Binghamton to the forefront of New York tourism.

On the individual level, Judi focuses heavily on making sure that Binghamton locals are happy and that they see their town as thriving and improving. Judi creates a positive atmosphere that leads the locals to tell their friends across the country how much they love living there. That positivity eventually spreads to Binghamton tourists and secures a future for Binghamton as a popular New York destination.

Resources:

Episode Transcript

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

Sep 4, 2019

Creating a great customer experiences with hospitality, food and beverage has been a passion of Suzanne’s since her very first job. Suzanne is always looking for ways to bring new and interesting experiences to guests, and that is what she brings to Red Shed Brewery. As head of innovation and marketing, Suzanne seeks to be the connection between Red Shed and the brewing industry, working with her father Jack and brewers on interesting flavors and trends that use locally sourced New York hops and grains, and working with her husband David and tap room managers to understand the guests and clientele served to ensure that Red Shed remains connected with the community.

After graduating from the University in Arizona with a degree in Business Management, Suzanne worked at UCLA as Marketing, Media and Public Relations Manager. She moved to Pittsburgh, PA in 2002 and spent 14 years in the retail food industry working in food marketing, customer relationship marketing and finally found her calling being the head of customer experience for the chain of grocery, convenience and pharmacy locations. After getting married, having kids, and being convinced by her father Jack to bring her hospitality and food expertise to Cherry Valley, NY, Suzanne and the family took a leap of faith and joined the family business Red Shed Brewery in 2017.

Suzanne splits her time developing patient experience initiatives at Bassett Healthcare, teaching yoga and the brewery. Living up to the tagline of Local, Handcrafted, Fresh is Suzanne’s mission, and she wants to create that experience for her guests with each beer, flavor, experience and visit to the brewery.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Suzanne Olson of Red Shed Brewery about the customer experience and how to operate a business with a person-first mindset.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • What leaders in large companies can learn about running small businesses and what that transition taught Suzanne
  • How a person-first approach benefited Suzanne’s brewery and what that philosophy looks like in practice
  • Using feedback to ensure your company is always growing and improving
  • Handling the “slow season” and getting creative with your destination
  • The effects of co-opetition and collaboration on Suzanne’s brewery and how to forge meaningful partnerships
  • What targeted marketing can do to help diversify your audiences or explore your niche

Putting the Customer First

Suzanne Olson is a strategic and innovative customer experience and marketing professional with 16 years of progressive experience and related education. She spent 14 years at Giant Eagle, a New England grocery chain, directing customer service and marketing strategies. She then transitioned from the large grocery chain to a small brewery, Red Shed, in upstate New York. I was so happy to talk to her and get a glimpse into this exciting industry!

Suzanne’s background means she has a special perspective on serving customers and giving them experiences to remember. Her switch from a company with 37,000 employees to a small brewery of 14 people gave her insight on operations, service, and training. She discovered how relevant company culture is to a smaller organization and resolved to put customers and people first.

Small businesses in the travel industry face unique challenges that large corporations don’t otherwise know about. It’s very easy to neglect things like training when running an in-season destination for seven days a week. Suzanne’s person-first approach is a great fix for this and other problems Red Shed has dealt with. Her company brews and works for the customer. As a result, the company has adapted to local tourism by implementing a beer garden, yard games, giant Jenga, tractor tires, and a family-friendly menu. The family focus carved out a niche for Red Shed that appeals to a broad range of customers who just want to relax.

Craft Brew Collaboration

Suzanne’s creative “customer-first” practices have put Red Shed ahead of the game. To help her along the way, Suzanne and her company have consistently asked for feedback to ensure they’re always improving and recreating their winning formula. This level of creativity and flexibility is extremely helpful for when Suzanne’s business faces its inevitable challenge: the slow season.

To shake things up, Red Shed “invents events,” as Suzanne puts it. Events such as a prom party and other fun festivities keep people interested, while new beers keep them coming back for more. Other features, like an Oktoberfest party with a variety of attractions, continue to draw new and diverse audiences. Targeted marketing helps Suzanne build a vision for Red Shed and the events and ideas she wants to try out. In the large market that is the brewery business, Suzanne has discovered the magic of collaboration. Red Shed’s one-of-a-kind brews are a great way for the brewery to partner and promote local farms and spotlight their ingredients.

Suzanne’s collaboration extends to the Destination Marketing Corporation of Otsego County, where she serves on the board. Suzanne regularly offers help to the DMCOC while informing them of Red Shed’s local events and plans. She reinforces transparency as a valuable trait for any destination or company to have. By staying transparent, partners like local restaurants trust Red Shed and work with them to the benefit of both companies.

Resources:

Episode Transcript

We value your thoughts and feedback and would love to hear from you. Leave us a review on your favorite streaming platform to let us know what you want to hear more of. Here is a quick tutorial on how to leave us a rating and review on iTunes!: https://breaktheicemedia.com/rating-review/

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