NYS Awards Series 2 Episode 2

Episode 149:

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.


Episode Transcript

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