Nicole Mahoney: 00:23 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. I am passionate about traveling, tourism and love learning from the experiences of professionals in the industry. I also love celebrating the creative, collaborative and results driven programs the tourism professionals are executing all over the world. Today’s episode is the first and a two part series dedicated to boring the tourism excellence award winners from the New York State Tourism Industry Association. 10 awards will be presented at the associations annual meeting on September 27th, 2019 my hope is you will learn something new from hearing about these programs. Be inspired to submit your own work for an award program and to celebrate along with us. Regardless if you are receiving an award without the creative smart results producing work, all of you in the tourism industry execute tourism would not be the powerful economic engine that it is today. Take a minute and relish in the compliment because we all need a pat on the back sometimes. Now let’s get into the interviews. First Step is David Lee marketing operations manager at the finger lakes visitors connection, the official Tourism Promotion Agency for Ontario County. David is receiving the 2019 excellence and young professional leadership award. His nominator described David as a technology focused destination marketing professional that strives to combine research and data in some marketing success.
Speaker 3: 01:47 David, thank you so much for joining us and talking with us about the tourism excellence award that you recently were notified that you won. Um, before I dive into some questions, uh, for you, could you just tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into the tourism industry and what you love most about this industry?
Speaker 4: 02:07 Yeah. Well, first of all, thank you for having me, Nicole. Much appreciated and uh, yeah, let’s uh, um, dive right in and like, um, you know, I’m definitely honored to be receiving this award and, um, no, a little bit about myself. You know, I got my start in the house to tell the tourism industry about axiom at this point. Now I’m almost at 18 years ago. Um, I started off, uh, busing tables at 16 years old at the Nama Lake and Canandaigua. Um, you know, right now it’s a bit of a construction site, but, uh, 2020, we’re looking forward to the new property. Um, but then from there I was there on property for about, uh, eight, eight years and did a variety of tasks. Um, everything from busing, serving, bartending, uh, you know, banquets, meetings, set up. And then finally at the end of my eight years there, I’m, for the last three, I was a it manager.
Speaker 4: 02:58 Um, and I did, uh, all the, you know, technology on property. They’re in a home, you can run the front desk. So I got the front of the house, kind of the back of the house operations, and then, um, switching over into the tourism. Um, uh, one day I, I got, I got a phone call to be, uh, to be honest. And then, um, you know, kind of a, it’s always been this, um, you know, great ever since and it wasn’t a great deal working at the hotel. And, uh, you know, that’s one part of the, you know, industry. Uh, I’d still kind of keep close to my heart is the, are our front liners on our hospitality [inaudible] oh, friends out there kind of doing the day to day. Um, so I’m now currently, um, you know, I’ve been now with the visitors connection, the Ontario County tourism office or the, uh, I think of like scissors connection for a now in my 10th year.
Speaker 4: 03:45 Um, I am currently the, uh, marketing operations manager. Um, everything from, you know, websites, research to helping groups. Um, for example, just before I hopped on the podcast this afternoon, I actually helped two visitors that walked in and all they had was a phone and a photo and they said, can you help me find where this photo was taken? So I sent them right down to the north end and canned table lake. So that was a, um, you know, one of the things I love about the industry is, you know, it’s, you know, helping people, um, you know, find, you know, always have the, you know, they feeling when you go on vacation or when you’re getting close to the destination. Um, when you’re working in the tourism industry, you kind of have that feeling every day when you go to work. Um, you’re making [inaudible] making memories and uh, you know, helping people have fun. Okay.
Speaker 3: 04:31 That’s awesome. Yeah, making memories and helping people have fun. Absolutely. I think a, uh, a lot of your peers would agree with you, um, on that as well. And, and I love that you have the hospitality experience, kind of the front of the house back in the house, you know, that gives you that, um, as you mentioned, that frontline experience, you really understand, you know, the, these visitors that come in, those are the people that they’re interfacing with, right? Most of the time.
Speaker 4: 04:56 Very, very much so. And, uh, you know, you don’t, and when you’re so close to you, don’t you realize sometimes how important it it is until you’re a once removed from that scenario. And when you’re in the tourism standpoint, when you rely on your industry to, um, you know, put the best foot forward, um, you know, it’s great to be able to have an integral role in kind of shaping that experience for the visitor and then also doing a, helping the front liners, um, you know, with the information and the tools that they need to do the job.
Speaker 3: 05:24 Yeah, absolutely. That’s really awesome. So, David, um, where do you find inspiration and motivation for the work that you do?
Speaker 4: 05:32 You know, it’s so kind of back to what you kind of mentioned earlier, you know, it’s a feeling, you know, when you, you’re able to make the, you know, the a little bit of difference or it’d be able to, you know, help a visitor, um, you know, with the map, even though you spent, you know, hours, you know, proofing and revising that map and you know, you send it off the front and the, hopefully there’s no typos but then you’d come to find out and you know, six months later, you know, they walked through the, your to your office would that map in hand. And you know, they all, they know is what they have in front of them and um, you know, this knowing that, you know, what you’re doing is, um, you know, back to making memories is helping people, you know, take advantage of their, their free time. And as we all know, you have, vacations are so important. Um, you know, the inspiration to, you know, help people achieve happiness and you find the happiness throughout the finger lakes. I think it’s just, you know, one of the reasons that it just makes it easy to come to work every day. Um, you know, who wouldn’t love, um, promoting, um, their own backyard and, you know, telling everybody about it.
Speaker 3: 06:31 Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. That’s, that’s really awesome. I love, I love that. And it is, you know, it is a unique job and I, and I love how, you know, we’ve talked about making memories, having fun, happiness. I mean it’s just such a positive industry, you know, cause um, it is all about, uh, travel and those, those, uh, memory making experiences. I think that’s just really awesome. David, what advice do you have for aspiring leaders in the tourism industry?
Speaker 4: 06:59 Know for this one? Yeah, I would, um, you know, be willing to take risks, you know, um, you know, if you don’t, you know, put yourself out or, you know, take the risks or if you always are scared of, you know, failing or not being successful, um, you know, you’re not going to be able to, you know, learn from those mistakes. You know, some of the [inaudible], um, you know, mistakes or, you know, errors, um, Ho is sometimes the, you turned into the best solutions. Um, there’s a lot to be gained from, you know, trying and maybe then trying again, you know, unless you have, yeah. Um, if you, if you don’t try, you can’t really, you know, find success. Um, yeah. You kind of stay stagnant and, um, you know, if you, yeah, that’ll kind. I always, um, keep pushing forward and trying new things. Um, and like I said, um, you know, putting yourself out there, you know, being, you know, a bit vulnerable and then just knowing you all, maybe then you know, that publication’s not gonna fly, you know, it’s just going to sit on the shelf or they, you know, they campaign’s going to have on zero lift. Um, but then you, you know, dig deep, figure out what you did wrong or what you can improve on and then just come back even stronger.
Speaker 3: 08:02 What great advice I, I think risk taking is just so important and I think that’s great that you pointed that out. And, um, just really great advice to, you know, not be afraid to fail and that those are really learning opportunities to, to move you forward, I think are, are really great points. And so, David, what does being a tourism excellence award winner mean to you?
Speaker 4: 08:25 Um, you know, you know, like I said, you know, I never would’ve thought, you know, almost, you know, 18 years ago when I was, you know, flipped in the ballroom at two in the morning to get ready for the next morning lunch in that, um, that w I’d be here today, you know, uh, along the way, um, there’s been a, you know, a lot of, um, you know, great people who have, um, you know, helped it shaped my career and, you know, Kinda, um, you know, Shamie as a tourism, tourism professional. Um, you know, kind of back to the question earlier is, you know, one of the advice, another thing I would give to aspiring leaders is, you know, embrace your current leadership. You know, I’ve been being a very fortunate, um, you know, our office and our dynamic of our office. We’re always pushing, pushing the envelope, always looking, you know, just just to be one or two steps ahead and, you know, put the best foot forward for the destination.
Speaker 4: 09:14 Um, and you know, with the guidance of, you know, strong leadership, um, and you know, I have, you know, the list goes on for young people. I would have to thank to helping you and get me here to this point today. If I look back, like I said, you know, 18 years ago, I could’ve never fathom, um, we were, I would be. Um, and overall, you know, tourism is a team effort. Um, you know, knowing your strengths is important, but also knowing your weaknesses. Even more important. Um, you know, teamwork from our office here in Canada, Guam, um, at the finger lakes, visitors connection to our friends throughout the finger lakes region. And of course, not to forget our friends across New York state and even nationally, um, where you can, you know, um, you know, gain in vise, uh, advice and insights from, and, you know, ultimately it, it all makes it, we’re all on the same team and we’re all in the goal of we’re all in the happiness business and, um, you know, as a, you know, as the, you know, the tourism ord winner and, you know, looking back and even looking forward, you know, the, the future for tourism is bright and, you know, um, you know, I’m honored to receive the young leaders support from a nice dia.
Speaker 4: 10:18 Um, but sorry, we’re famous for acronyms.
Speaker 3: 10:20 Yes.
Speaker 4: 10:21 Travel Industry Association.
Speaker 3: 10:24 Um,
Speaker 4: 10:24 and then like, again, you know, thanks for having me. This has been great. Um, and I don’t know if you have any other questions for me, but [inaudible] I’m all ears.
Speaker 3: 10:33 Awesome. I know, I think you did a, um, you shared so much. I really appreciate you taking some time out to share with us and I know our listeners have learned a lot from you. You gave a lot of really great, uh, advice and pointers even with the last one about embracing your current leadership and looking for those mentors cause you never know where you’re going to find them. So I think that’s just awesome. David, thank you so much for spending time with us. Yeah,
Speaker 4: 10:57 well thanks. Well thank you. And you know, like one last takeaway, you know, hard work does pay off. Well I appreciate it.
Speaker 3: 11:02 Absolutely.
Nicole Mahoney: 11:04 Next I talked to rob custody, senior director at Corning Museum of glass about their glass barge program that is being honored with an excellence and overall tourism marketing award. [inaudible] 1868, Brooklyn Flint glass company loaded its equipment onto canal boats, bound for Corning New York. Thus setting in motion 150 years of glass making innovation in Corning that has shaped the modern world. In May, 2018, the Corning museum of glass [inaudible] launched a statewide glass blowing tour to commemorate the hundred and 50th anniversary of glass making, moving to Corning from Brooklyn. Rob Shares with us how they did it and what they learned.
Speaker 3: 11:48 Rob, thank you so much for taking some time out to talk with us about your tourism award. Um, before we get started with the questions, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into the industry and what you love most about being in this industry?
Speaker 5: 12:04 Oh, sure. Um, well first of all, thank you. This is a what a great honor. My start in the industry began, uh, actually working on the planning of a, an expansion of the Corning museum of glass in the 1990s. So I came yeah. Into the industry as a designer and a project planner and a bit of course what we were creating was a major tourism attraction. So, um, and uh, I was invited to join the staff of the museum after that expansion opened in 1999. [inaudible] fairly quickly found myself, uh, with marketing and guest services responsibilities for, for the institution. And um, my goodness, it will, what an education. Um, my, my boss was smart enough to um, let me know that my data was, would be my best friend and the customer data would, oh, it help us find a path forward in terms of, um, telling people about the museum and inviting them to come visit. And um, ah, the deeper we got into it, the more the tourism partnerships across the state, uh, we’re absolutely essential for, to, to guide us forward and um, [inaudible] yeah, very, very quickly decided that, um, um, yeah, the way we would succeed was not by trying to do it ourselves but, but in partnership with other, um, tourism partners across the sane.
Speaker 3: 13:29 Yeah. I think that’s awesome. I love that you are a designer and a project planner. Um, w you know, is your first entry into this, uh, into this industry. And um, I also love that everything you do are, a lot of what you do is grounded in data and that that is your best friend. Because I think you said a really great example, uh, for others who would be listening. Um, you know, and how you can use data to, like you said, to invite people to visit, uh, the museum.
Speaker 5: 13:57 Well, it was, um, it was interesting because, uh, because I came at in into the industry with really no, no background and [inaudible] eventually became my job. Uh, we had built a museum and guess what? They didn’t come and, and so, uh, and my boss was pretty clear that they needed to come. So, um, uh, really starting with the data, understanding customer behavior, what motivated them, what worked, what didn’t. And being unafraid of what we learned from the data, um, has, has really been a key to our success.
Speaker 3: 14:31 Yeah, I think that’s great. So we want to hear about this project that you are receiving the tourism excellence award for. Can you tell us about, about your project and how it impacted tourism?
Speaker 5: 14:44 Absolutely. So the, in 2019, the Corning Museum of glass, I’m mounted a project called glass barge. And the glass barge was a five months 30 stop tour on New York waterways from Brooklyn to buffalo and then back down into the finger lakes two within 20 miles of Corning. And, um, we were celebrating the a hundred and 50th anniversary of a similar voice that took place just after, after the civil war when glass making moved to Corning from Brooklyn. So we, we retraced us and you know, symbolically retrace that journey, uh, on New York waterways. Um, it is wonderful to note in terms of the states amazing infrastructure that [inaudible] you can get to within 20 miles of water, uh, uh, 20 miles of by water from New York City today. It all is all functioning and works well. And, um, and that was our adventure too. Do live glass blowing demonstrations at every stop and buy people on the barge. Um, while we were more that, uh, you know, at waterfront location and, um, the response totally exceeded our expectations.
Speaker 3: 15:54 That’s amazing. And, uh, I know quite, quite the journey and the, and a lot of planning went into it. Can you talk a little bit about how, you know, how you planned, um, that journey and [inaudible] I know it’s, it’ll be hard to name all of them, but can you talk a little bit about all of the parties that were involved in helping pull that off? Cause I know you didn’t do it on your own.
Speaker 5: 16:16 You’re right. This, this, the magnitude of this project was, um, really required, um, partnerships and support, you know, all across the state. Uh, [inaudible] it began, um, you know, in many ways, uh, you know, what do we, what do we all do? We, we talk about projects that we’re dreaming about. And wouldn’t it be interesting if we could, and I’ve been talking about this, it wasn’t called the glass part yet, but I’ve been talking about the idea of this project. Uh, for a long time. I knew that 2018 would be the a hundred and 50th anniversary and I’d probably shop the idea around for 10 years. And, um, I was, uh, my colleague Dana Krueger, um, uh, who was at the Museum Association in New York at the time, um, said, you know what, I, yeah, I know a guy over at Canal Corporation and I think you should pitch the idea to him.
Speaker 5: 17:04 So at a bar in Troy, New York, we, uh, I met with Bill Sweitzer and Dana and a few other colleagues from California. And for the first time in all the times I, they rolled this project idea out, uh, you could really see the light bulbs going off and people, um, and at the table imagine not just that it was possible, but how to put it all together. So, um, are our colleagues at New York State Canal Corporation. Okay. Really became, um, you know, our, our Sherpa guides to how to, how to navigate, um, make this project a reality through them. We met the [inaudible] Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, um, who, uh, with the lowest McClure had made this trip, uh, portions this trip, um, uh, over a number of years. And so they had expertise, uh, essentially at every stop we would, we would end up going to, so we traveled with the lowest McClure as a companion vessel ultimately.
Speaker 5: 18:01 So we told the story of canal life and the canal day is, you know, from that period. And um, we talked about glass and the influence of glass making and guests can get on board the lowest Clore and, and uh, you know, I’m on a replica canal boat. So the, they became our, um, you know, how do we navigate this stops, uh, all the connections with the local, um, uh, local officials, local potential local supporters. And then in terms of [inaudible] the complexities of that I hadn’t really no idea we would need to overcome in terms of the tugboat and the barge and all of those maritime operations. Um, we partnered with the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City. So, you know, often partnerships among not for profits. Um, it can be marriages of convenience. And this is not that at all. This was, this was a very dynamic, very collaborative and very supportive partnership between, um, yeah, three and not for profits spanning two different states and, um, absolutely could not have accomplished a project without, um, without not just the, the dedication and work, but the camaraderie between all the institutions and then the [inaudible] canal corporation.
Speaker 5: 19:19 Um, you know, because it is the [inaudible] voyage took place during the celebration of the Erie Canal bicentennial [inaudible]. There was money available, um, that we could apply for grants for through various agencies. And so we were very successful actually over the course of two years. Um, gaining the support of New York State Canal Corporation for the capital build of the, of the vessel itself from um, New York State Council on the arts for programmatic support and then market New York money through, I love New York too, actually market, um, a market, the tour, um, through social media, broadcast, et cetera. So really those, those partners, uh, were, were essential. And then of course, 30 stops men, 30 different local partnerships we would have to put together for, um, you know, as simple as things as [inaudible] a hospitality, welcoming, working with the local, um, uh, CVBs and tourism, um, it authorities if you will. Uh, so that was a lot and lot and lot of conversations and getting to know people. And the beautiful thing is of course those relationships are so solid now. We, we, um, then the network we now have and the joy across the state, um, [inaudible] is truly a remarkable,
Speaker 3: 20:40 that’s really awesome. Um, I, I’m sure, I mean those relationships maybe were part of what you thought you would be getting into, but from what I’m hearing, that’s probably a bit of an unexpected surprise, right? That you have these deep relationships now, um, with so many, um, throughout the state from this experience.
Speaker 5: 20:58 Yeah. It’s, it’s a little bit like how you feel when you graduate from college and your house,
Speaker 6: 21:02 all of these people that are going to be lifelong friends. Um, and, um, yeah.
Speaker 5: 21:08 And, and so of course the, um, we’re, we’re looking at that for our ongoing programming. Um, we learned the power of the [inaudible], um, bringing our mobile glassblowing, uh, Crossing York state
Speaker 5: 21:21 and using that as a, as a magnet to attract people to come to the, to the Corning Museum of glass. So in total, 55,000 people gone, got on and off the glass barge to watch a demonstration. And essentially once we hit the Hudson River, uh, every show of the tour was sold out. And, and that was without the benefit of a festival or some other thing, drawing people to the waterfront site that was strictly dependent on the ability to, through word of mouth earned media, um, owned media and paid media to pull that all together. And it was by no means a sure about that when we showed up. And you know, some small town in the middle of upstate New York. Yeah. Anybody would show up.
Speaker 6: 22:10 But, but, uh, we ticketed it, um, through event bright
Speaker 5: 22:13 and, um, w w [inaudible] people would walk to stop us on the street and say, you know, it’s sold out. Is there any way we can get on the glass barge? And of course we would say, you know, some people won’t show up, so please, please come on down. Um, it was so gratifying. Unbelievable, uh, to see that [inaudible] that level of support and enthusiasm for the programming that was offered. And, and just, um, it’s, it’s wonderful to work on a project when people on a daily basis, truly and from their heart are saying thank you. And, um, that, that, um, that’s, that’s it. That lasts a lifetime. That feeling.
Speaker 3: 22:50 Yeah. That’s, that’s amazing. So, rob, what is one thing that you learned from being part of this project?
Speaker 5: 22:57 I’m ashamed to admit it. After 30 plus years, uh, you know, working with Corning and according to the mobile app, um, [inaudible] two never to underestimate the complexity of a, of a major project. This was this turned into a moonshot. It was completely consuming, not just for the team, um, and our partners, but essentially our entire institution had to pull back at some level in order to devote resources to help make [inaudible]. That’s real. And so, and that’s a tricky thing because, you know, if you, you know, it’s a little bit like, you know, some of these, your projects in your life, you know, building a house, planning a wedding,
Speaker 6: 23:38 um,
Speaker 5: 23:38 in the end they’re just completely all consuming. And, you know, it’s easy to talk yourself out of not to do it because you know, it’s going to be so overwhelming. So, you know, as for me, I’m, um, pitching an idea, trying to assess the complexity, working with a team and, you know, people way better at logistics than I am to really understand the complexity. Uh, but at the same time, you don’t want to scare your organization away. [inaudible] you don’t want there support. So, you know, you’re, you’re part cheerleader and part realist, uh, and trying to walk that, what that balance.
Speaker 3: 24:12 Absolutely. Um, but, but I love that, you know, you didn’t shy away from it, right? You had this big dream and, and you’ve got all these partners put together and it sounds like, um, you know, it was, it was worth it in the end. Like hopefully that wedding is always worth it in the end. Are those, you know, building the houses always worth it at the end. But, um, yeah. Um, but
Speaker 5: 24:35 you know, to that, to that point, the, one of the things about it was, um, in garnering all that support and partnership and really get it getting people enthusiastic [inaudible] organization was, there was something about the proposition that was intriguing. No hot glass on a barge, traveling the state, doing a whistle stop tour. It’s sort of like, okay, I man, I don’t even know what it’s really all about yet, but that sounds really cool. And, um, and so we were able to, um, build support for the project. And then that also ultimately intrigued, um, funders and sponsors to, to a level that [inaudible]. It was, it was pretty, it was pretty remarkable how quickly people [inaudible] the, the light bulb would go off for their head and they would say yes. That I, man, that sounds so interesting.
Speaker 3: 25:23 Yeah, that’s, that’s really awesome. So what does being a tourism excellence award winner mean to you?
Speaker 5: 25:31 Well, I mean, I have to say it’s okay in New York state, so you can have a higher, a higher bar, right. The, the, the quality of work that is being done in this and this state is incredible. And to, to even compete and to be real and then to be recognized on that stage, on that podium is, uh, it’s, it’s stunning to me. Oh, there’s, there’s such great work, so many smart people, so many fabulous projects and that’s [inaudible] it’s, it’s truly humbling to be recognized in this way.
Speaker 3: 26:05 That’s really great. Well, I will enjoy seeing you receive, you and your team received that award, uh, in September. And Rob, I thank you so much for taking some time out to share with us and a and share all about that, this program today.
Speaker 5: 26:19 Well, thank you so much. It’s what uh, what a fun trip down memory lane.
Speaker 3: 26:23 Perfect. All Right, thanks rob
Speaker 5: 26:27 it. Thank you.
Nicole Mahoney: 26:28 Next, Jennifer San Martino. Deputy Chief of staff for visit Staten Island shares. Why they are being recognized for the visit Staten Island campaign, which is receiving an excellence in tourism marketing projects. Award visit Staten, executed a complete rebranding campaign. There were a partnership with Empire State Development. I love New York, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, Staten Island borough, President’s office and Destination St George. You know, we love collaborations on this podcast. Jennifer tells how they did it. Jennifer, thank you so much for taking some time to talk to us today. Before we get started with the questions about the award that you’re being awarded at the New York state tourism annual meeting, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the tourism industry and what you love most about this industry?
Speaker 7: 27:20 Sure. Thank you Nicole and I appreciate the time to be on the show. Um, my name is Jennifer San Martino. I am actually the deputy chief of staff for borough President James Auto on Staten Island, um, which is a relatively new title to me. Prior to this, I was the director of tourism for a visit Staten Island and that was the first time Staten Island, which is the fifth borough of the city of New York, had its own, uh, tourism department. Um, that was something that was new to us. Uh, we had um, some very exciting things happening over the last few years, including um, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, wanting to establish a true waterfront corridor for Staten Island. And as that sort of developed, um, at the, at that time I was the director of communications for the borough president and I kept saying to him, you know, someone has to talk about tourism and culture on Staten Island, no one doing this.
Speaker 7: 28:13 And they used to tease me and say, you know, there’s Jen running up and down the hallway with her sandwich board and her bell telling us that we have to talk about tourism. And at the time I thought we have to find someone who works in tourism to do this. And so it didn’t occur to me then that I, I could possibly do this. And, and what I came to realize was it wasn’t so much at that time knowing tourism and with knowing Staten Island and what our assets are and how best to promote those assets. So it’s something that I sort of fell into, um, because I was so passionate about telling Staten Island story. So back in 2017, the borough president said to me, I think, I think we should do this, and I think you should, you know, take charge of it. So at that time I became the director of tourism.
Speaker 7: 28:56 Oh, for visit Staten Island, which is the name of the campaign, uh, to market and promote Staten Island, um, as a destination. And so it was a, it was a crash course. It was a lot of learning of the industry. Um, and Nicea was an amazing partner in that I got to meet so many people and just understand different parts of the state and how they were being promoted. Um, it was, it was huge for me to just be exposed to that. Um, and of course I work with New York City and company here, uh, within the study. Um, and it really was, I can’t say it was, it was a crash course and learning the tournament tourism industry, how it works. Um, and I was very fortunate to be, um, attached to people like Jennifer Ackerson from Ayllon marketing who really took me by the hand and explained everything to me and really showed me the ropes of tourism. Um, so that was such a huge asset for us to be able to just learn on the ground. Um, and that’s really how I came into the industry.
Speaker 3: 29:53 Wow. That’s a, that’s really awesome. I love how you said it’s really, you know, about knowing Staten Island story and being so passionate about where you live, um, and then knowing how to tell this story. And, um, the importance of those mentors. And Jennifer Ackerson isn’t, is an awesome mentor. She’s actually also receiving an award. So yes. So she’s being interviewed as part of this series as well. But, uh, but I think that that’s just fantastic. So can you tell us about your project that’s receiving the award and how it impacted tourism in your area?
Speaker 7: 30:26 Oh, I’d be happy to. So, um, I think for a long time Staten island has suffered from a little bit of a reputation problem. Um, and some of that is what the media puts out about Staten Island, you know, um, I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that there have been, uh, some, um, less than flattering reality shows that have taken place here. Um, you know, for many years we had the world’s largest dump on, you know, right here on the island. Um, and so those were things that were, had a negative connotation attached and we had to overcome that, um, not only in terms of promoting us as a borough, but also with our residents and giving them things to be proud of about their borough. Um, and so I really saw our tourism and, and our, um, marketing as a three pronged approach.
Speaker 7: 31:13 And that was marketing to tourists and visitors, marketing to our own residents so that they felt good about the place that they call home. And then of course, marketing just internationally that people understood. There’s more to coming to New York City then, you know, the Statue of liberty and Times Square, which are all wonderful, but there’s so much more. And Staten Island I think is really unique. We have where some parts of the islands, and we’re relatively small, but some parts of the island are quite rural and some are very urban. Um, and we have all different kinds of experiences from hiking trails and running paths, um, to kayaking and swimming and, um, semi-professional sports and amazing entertainment. We have this, uh, this, the city’s only, um, a historic village at historic Richmond town. We have the state’s only Tibetan museum that really looks like it’s a in monastery.
Speaker 7: 32:08 I mean, so much of this is like, oh my God, wow. This is on Staten Island. And what we found when we would bring people here. Um, and w what we did in the beginning was we invited, uh, you know, new friends to come out and, and we gave them familiarity tours and we wanted to educate people on what [inaudible] was. Every person said the same thing, which was I had no idea that this was such a surprise. I had no idea you had this on Staten Island. This is amazing. And, and so we realized then that we had a lot of work to do in terms of, um, marketing Staten Island. I’m an educating people as to who we are.
Speaker 3: 32:43 Yeah. Um, I, I think that’s great. And I, and I love how you have these three prongs, the tourists and visitors thinking about those residents. And then of course, that international visitor, um, you know, with New York City being the largest international destination for international visitors in the United States, that makes complete sense. And so the campaign that you did that, um, you’re receiving the award for, I’m was all under the visit Staten Island campaign.
Speaker 7: 33:12 That’s correct.
Speaker 3: 33:12 Okay. And what types of, what types of things did you execute under that campaign?
Speaker 7: 33:17 So, uh, this, this, that an island is really, um, it’s new and I’ll be honest, we were able to do this with a grant from New York state, which was just such a gift to be able to do that. Um, so we really focus on our website and we focused on, um, marketing to tourists that were already here. Um, in terms of using, uh, fairy ads at Whitehall terminal. So, um, sat down once Barry is the first, if not the second most popular attraction in New York City. Um, it’s a free boat that goes to Staten Island. It gives you free views of the Statue of Liberty. Um, and what we know is that people were being told by, you know, their concierge is and, and their tour guides, there’s nothing to see over there. Take the boat, take your picture, is run through the terminal, get back on the boat and go back to lower Manhattan.
Speaker 7: 34:07 And so one of the things that we wanted to do was stop that from happening. And we’ve done that by reaching out to the concierges and the tour guides and giving them familiarity tours and welcoming them, Staten Island and educating them on what’s here. But in addition, doing a major ad campaign right in the ferry terminal and on the ferry, both for themselves, so that when visitors are here, they’re seeing all these images and they’re, and they’re, they’re starting to think about, wait, I don’t have to just get back on the boat. There is something to do over there. Um, and so we’ve seen, um, quite an uptick in our, uh, well if all of that marketing is, um, sending people to our website, which is visit that island.com. So we’ve seen an amazing uptick in the last, um, you know, here, but really the last three months, um, since we started this campaign and gotten people excited about what there is to do here on Staten Island.
Speaker 3: 34:57 Oh, that’s great. And what is one thing that you’ve learned from being part of this program?
Speaker 7: 35:03 [inaudible] uh, we’ve learned a lot.
Speaker 3: 35:05 We’ve learned that
Speaker 7: 35:06 a lot. Um, and I think one of the things that we learned was, um, you know, and I, again, I, I don’t want this to be negative, but in some ways that an islanders can be a little self hating and they don’t realize just how wonderful a place this is because they take it for granted and they live here. So they go other places to enjoy vacation and things like that. So one of the things that we’ve learned was just a little bit of education and awareness really went along way with Sam Islanders. Um, and they got very excited about things to do here. And you know, w we have in the last few years we’ve been able to help get a lot of different festivals and events off the ground here on Staten Island. And one of the things that we’re seeing from that is that people who live here are taking advantage of those things and getting excited about it. And I think that in so many ways, those are your best advocates and that does a lot of the advertising for you. Um, everybody who’s here, you know, mostly who lived here, has come from someplace else and they have family someplace else, whether that’s Queens or New Jersey or Norway, like myself. I mean, we’ve all have reached across the world and when we talk positively about this place that we love so much, I think that sells it for us. And that’s a really exciting thing and it’s something to feel really good about it.
Speaker 3: 36:21 Oh, that’s awesome. And what does being a tourism excellence award winner mean to you?
Speaker 7: 36:27 Oh, it’s so exciting. Um, you know, I think because we really did this for the very first time, marketing Staten Island, um, of course you go into this with a lot of excitement and a lot of hope, but a little bit of angst and, you know, you wonder, did we make the right decision, you know, using this particular campaign. And our campaign is, um, our visits at nylon campaign is actually dubbed suite retreat. Um, and because we wanted to create a feeling of this is a place that you want to visit, this is, this is not what you expect it to be. Um, our subhead is the unexpected borough, uh, because that’s what we hear all the time is that people had no idea what was here. It was so unexpected. And I think that we were really able to zero in on that with this campaign.
Speaker 7: 37:09 And in some ways it was so simple and in some ways it was so complex to get to where we are right now. Um, but to be, to get an award for this work that we really believes so deeply in and we’re so excited about, um, it took us a year to get to this point. Um, it’s so rewarding and it’s so, um, it’s just, it’s, it to be acknowledged by Nicea, uh, who knows, who knows? Tourism in New York state is just, it’s like, it’s like a big hug and we so appreciate it and we are just so excited, um, to be part of this state and to be part of this organization. Um, and it w just thank you. I mean it’s, it’s really wonderful and it’s really exciting and you know, it’s really great to be acknowledged, to do something that you love to do. Um, so at the end of the day it’s just a beautiful thing.
Speaker 3: 37:58 Absolutely. I love that. It’s like a big hog. That is a perfectly is perfect. That’s awesome. Well Jennifer, thank you so much and congratulations on the award and we’ll look forward to catching up with you again.
Speaker 7: 38:14 I appreciate it. Nicole. Thank you so much.
Speaker 3: 38:17 Next I talked to Scott Keller Hudson Valley River national heritage area about their train tour app. It is being honored with the excellence in tourism marketing projects awards. The Hudson Valley offers unique multi interest experiences, many of which are accessible via the and metro north
Nicole Mahoney: 38:36 railroads in 2018 the Hudson River valley national heritage area commissioned agency BBG, Angie to promote the launch of its new Hudson River train tour app to attract new audiences to leisure train travel and to recapture the attention of commuters and convert them into travelers. So Scott, thank you so much for joining me. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and and how you got into the role that you have today?
Speaker 8: 39:03 Sure. Nicole, thank you for having me. My name is Scott Keller and the executive director of the Hudson River valley national heritage area and the Hudson River valley greenway. I’ve been with the group with both organizations since they were founded, um, in legislation, uh, both back in the 90s and I’ve, um, was initially hired as the accountant, um, became the trails of special projects director and, and three years ago became the executive director.
Nicole Mahoney: 39:31 Awesome. So you’ve, you’ve been with the Organization for a really long time, which I’m sure gives you a lot of insight and perspective on how you, how your organization has evolved, but how exciting that you’re a 2019 tourism excellence award winner. And I’d love to have you share with our listeners a little bit about your project and, uh, how it’s impacted tourism in your area.
Speaker 8: 39:55 Sure. Our project is that’s in river, a train tour app. It is an app that’s affiliated with the national parks service app, but it’s also a standalone project. And what it’s designed to do is, um, four train riders on the Hudson Line between New York City and Albany. It allows them to, um, visit six different themes. Uh, what’s out the window, which just tells you what you’re looking at, which is the genesis of this whole, um, of this whole app. We used to ride the train back and forth to New York and we would hear people going, oh, what’s that? Oh, what’s that? And we finally decided to do something about it. And about 10 years ago we put together a printed booklet, which was on the train for a month and then was available in train stations until it ran out. And we realized that we could do a lot more if we want with an, with an app based program.
Speaker 8: 40:49 So we were able to go not only just what’s out the window, but we could also do the absent up close, which is a theme that, um, it tells you where you can go to actually be at the river or get into the river or launch a boat, voices of the Hudson, which are audio stories about a variety of different topics, um, on the Hudson, including ice boating. Uh, we currently have 18 stories and we’re going to, um, have 28 by the end of this year. And the other themes a correlate to our national heritage area, themes, freedom and dignity, nature and culture and corridor of commerce. Um, our app is geo-fence so that when you’re, once you’ve selected one of these themes, every time you approach a site, you get a pop up on your phone. It has a map that you can track, um, as you ride down so you can follow your progress and each site you can click on each notification or each site on the map and go to a page describing it with contact information if it can be visited.
Speaker 3: 41:48 Oh, that just sounds really awesome. I love how it was inspired by that question. You know, what’s out the window? What’s, what is that right? What, what are we seeing as we, as we, um, go by this destination. Um, but it sounds like a very comprehensive app. There’s a lot of different, um, pieces to it. And I’m wondering how long did it take to evolve? When did it start? You know, can you tell us a little bit about the process of getting this app launched?
Speaker 8: 42:15 Sure. Well, we, as I said, we’d done the printed version before. One of one of my former projects when I was the trails and special projects director. We used to run a kayaking trip each year from Albany to Manhattan. Um, and I was one of the guides and people would ask those questions as we want. So I had to know the river and what we were looking at anyway. And we also had our national heritage area sites that, um, that we want to promote that are designated as part of the Hudson River valley national heritage area. Many of what you can see from the train and some of what you can’t, but you can still go visit, um, from a train station. So making sure that we got all of that in and put everything in the right theme. Uh, we started the, the app process about three years ago. I’m with creating a few stories. Um, we got an [inaudible], a grant from Empire State Development and use some of our budget from our Federal National Heritage Area Program and we’re able to develop it.
Speaker 3: 43:11 That’s fantastic. And, and how about a shout out to the agency that, that you worked with? Was it one agency or did you have to work with multiple partners?
Speaker 8: 43:19 Um, we worked primarily, well empire State Development for the grant and we worked with an, um, an outfit called Onsell, which is, um, an app development company located near Rochester, New York. And they do a lot of these sorts of apps where they do the geo-fencing where with your gps enabled on your phone you can get that pop up notification.
Speaker 3: 43:41 That’s fantastic. Yeah. I, I think one of the things that, um, that we all recognize as these projects, they don’t come together, you know, all by themselves. It takes multiple people to pull them together. And not just your vendor partners like on sell but also like you mentioned ESD and the national parks as well. So I think that that’s just a really important point.
Speaker 8: 44:01 And we also use the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston. They did a lot of basic research for us and, and gathered photos and, um, we’re an extremely helpful partner and we use the sound and story foundation foundation to create the actual audio stories. They went out and did the interviews and created the scripts of questions that they would ask and then put together short four to six minutes, um, audio stories.
Speaker 3: 44:30 Yeah. That’s great.
Nicole Mahoney: 44:31 So what is one thing that you learned from being part of this project?
Speaker 8: 44:35 Well, apps are a lot of work and they require maintenance or more expensive than a website, but if you have a project requiring geo-fencing, they’re currently the best option. Um, and we’re really happy with what we have. Uh, we have to be sure that we, whenever our phones upgrade to a new system, we have to test the app and be sure that it hasn’t mess the app up. Um, and if we find that it has messed the app up, we go and we let, we let Anselmo when they, they fix it right away.
Nicole Mahoney: 45:04 That’s awesome.
Speaker 8: 45:05 It does. It does require monitoring. Um, we think it’s well worth it. We’ve, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback, um, besides this award.
Speaker 3: 45:15 That’s fabulous. And what does being a tourism excellence award winner mean to you?
Speaker 8: 45:21 First off, it’s a great honor and we’re extremely grateful, but it tells us that the tourism professionals who look at these things believe that what we’re doing is important, that we’re heading in the right direction and maybe we’re blazing a new trail.
Speaker 3: 45:34 That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much Scott, for sharing with us today and we’ll look forward to seeing you at the award ceremony.
Speaker 8: 45:41 All right, thank you. Appreciate it. Nicole.
Nicole Mahoney: 45:44 Next, Jennifer Ackerson shares her wisdom with us as she reflects on being recognized with an excellence in leadership award. Jennifer is the owner of Ayllon marketing group, which she established as a tourism consultancy company in 2000 after realizing that many small businesses and even tourism veterans did not take full advantage of working with the travel trade, which is integral to tourism, business success, the tourism training that she has designed as a first of its kind travel trade education. It is not available in any college course in business or hospitality programs. Jennifer’s design of this program or ability to capture the most essential pieces of this process, deliver it in plain language for everyone to understand and apply. [inaudible] is an immense contribution to the entire hospitality industry in general. Jennifer has been an avid supporter of New York state or I’m throughout her entire career or contribution is felt by many individual businesses and regions. [inaudible] [inaudible] plays a lead part in destinations, economics development.
Speaker 3: 46:47 Jen, thank you so much for taking some time to talk to us today, a about your tourism and excellence award. And, um, before we get started, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the tourism industry
Nicole Mahoney: 47:01 and what you love most about this industry?
Speaker 9: 47:03 Great. Thank you Nicole. I really appreciate the opportunity, um, to interview with you and certainly very excited about the tourism excellence award. Um, I’ve been in the industry over 25 years. Um, I started working at [inaudible], uh, discover long island, which was long island convention and visitor’s bureau and then just, um, [inaudible] moving to new businesses until I created my own consultancy about 20 years ago. But how I got in the industry was that I literally was traveling with a friend who was a travel agent and I was her companion. And so she would go everywhere in first class for free and I would have to pay the companion fares, which were [inaudible] build decent and good. And I decided that I needed to work in this industry because we were having so much fun as a sense. There’s three is, and so I went to school for a tourism degree. I wound up in an internship at discover long island. And that’s how it all began. And, um, what I really love most about the industry, and I think you’ll agree, is it’s the people. It’s the travel. It’s the ability to be creative and to make partnerships. And just now when we talk a little bit more about what I’m doing in my career now, it’s the reward from all of that I’ve learned and then sharing it with, uh, companies and small businesses and large businesses alike about what I’ve learned over the 20 years.
Speaker 3: 48:34 Yeah, I think that’s a, that’s a really great point. Um, you know, that you have been in the industry for so long and that, that whole idea of being able to pay it forward, right. And to teach, um, you know, the next generation if you will, or just people who are maybe just starting out in this particular industry, um, everything that you’ve learned, I think that’s really awesome.
Speaker 9: 48:56 Yup. That’s great. Uh, my whole career has been helping businesses and destinations, uh, to succeed at what they’re doing, you know, as the function of my job. But now I do it as in teaching and giving back and it’s really great.
Speaker 3: 49:10 Yeah. That’s awesome. So, Jim, where do you find inspiration and motivation for the work that you do?
Speaker 9: 49:17 Well, I guess I would say that, you know, it’s a lot of what I said earlier, the people, the creativity, the travel, um, my motivation comes from within. I work 24, seven, as I know you do. And it’s driven by the success that we have. You know, we’re passionate about what we do. Uh, we work with people that we like. Um, I have the ability in my business that I have now too dear what I do for what I live. So if something makes me happy, a destination to work with or a place to travel to, I can literally make that happen. And I think not everybody has that, but, um, I have that ability, so it inspires me to keep going. It motivates me to help more people. And, um, just getting the job done and doing great things is very motivating.
Speaker 3: 50:06 Yeah. Um, I think that’s a, that’s really great. And, um, before he asks you the next question, I actually just want to have you tell our listeners a little bit about a lion, uh, marketing and what you do for those that might not be familiar.
Speaker 9: 50:22 That’s great. So, uh, Ayllon was founded in 2000 and I began a consultancy where I was literally helping businesses that needed project work done and um, the business more so over the years where we’re, you know, a full from helping destinations and helping, um, individual businesses really succeed at their goals and tourism. So it’s anything from marketing and sales and how to run your operation. And the way that we’ve evolved is that in 2015, we partnered with a NYC and company, the official BMO of New York City. And we created a training program. [inaudible] I’m ready, which is um, really a who, what, when, where, why, and how to work in the tourism industry does specifically working with the travel trade. So I took the 20 years of knowledge that I had in helping individual businesses in all categories, turned it into a training program. And now we’re rolling that program out, um, of course throughout New York date but also across the country. So, um, to sum it up, we are consultants which can help businesses of any facet of tourism that they’re looking to develop in. Uh, we have our own sales missions and trade shows where we represent companies and make it affordable for them to attend. And then we have our, uh, tourism training program, which is now national.
Speaker 3: 51:57 That’s awesome. Thank you very much for sharing that with us. Cause I knew there was a lot to what you do, but you did a great job summarizing it right there for our listeners. So Jim, what advice do you have for aspiring leaders in the tourism industry?
Speaker 9: 52:12 Well, it’s a great question because, um, we do, we help so many newbies if you will, to the industry. We also help a lot of veterans who have been in the industry for a long time and doing things in their job that, um, through our training they realize why they’re doing them. But there’s a couple of things that I say repetitively too. Anyone who I, who I work with at that learning and training, and I use a lot of interns, but it’s always give more than you take. Um, always do the better job, do it 110%. Always ask questions. Um, because you have to keep learning. I’m a consultant in the industry, so if we’re not continuing to learn and read and research, then yeah, we can’t always be on top of the new trends in the way this industry continually evolve. Um, without a doubt.
Speaker 9: 53:05 Anyone who knows me have fun because this is an industry where we can have fun, we can work hard, but also have fun. And then you know, some of the business points that should be for any business, but I follow them is, you know, do what you say. We do a lot of networking, we go to events, we’re talking and making conversation. But when you say you’re going to do something, uh, follow up with it. And then I think that word follow up is really key because the world’s moving very fast and we have to pick and choose what we’re able to follow up on. But that’s why it’s important to do what you say. And then I think if you represent yourself well, then that’s how your career developed and your knowledge of the industry. And then you get to a point where I am where you can facilitate helping others and give back to the industry. So I think that kind of sums it up on my advice for aspiring leaders.
Speaker 3: 54:01 Awesome, awesome advice. And what does being a tourism excellence award winner mean to you?
Speaker 9: 54:08 Well, that’s a good one. I had just think about this one. You know, it’s really, um, the majority of my career has been about my clients and them alone. The first 15 years I would say that I’ve been in business, I’ve never seen spotlight, um, our company. Um, almost to a fault. It was always about our clients. We always use their company name, not ours. We acted as an extended staff of their company representing their company. And really what I, it looks good towards the future of right now is, you know, who am I in the industry and what have I done and what’s my legacy I’m leaving behind. And I think this teaching program that I’ve created, um, lends to that because it’s making such an impact, but it means a lot to me because it’s recognizing the hard work and relentless doing, doing, doing that I’ve been doing and never really stopping to reflect on it. And now I’m able to say, wow, this is pretty cool to receive this award because I didn’t spotlight myself and I didn’t look at myself as the impact that perhaps I have. And now being recognized as that makes sense.
Speaker 3: 55:21 Absolutely. It really does. And, and I can appreciate that, you know, needing to take a step back and, and accept an award like this, right. And be humble about it, but also recognize everything that you’ve achieved. So, um, I’m so glad that you were able to share some of your thoughts with us today and congratulations on this award and we’ll look forward to seeing you receive it in September.
Speaker 9: 55:45 Very excited. I’m blessed, um, with, you know, this career that I’ve had and really it’s an honor, so I totally look forward to being there and accepting it. And thank you so much, Nicole.
Speaker 1: 55:57 It’s time to hit the road again. Visit destination on the left.com during your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.
Speaker 10: 56:42 [inaudible].