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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May 24, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about programs that bring together counties, hotels, amusement parks, and more from Sarah Blackwell.

Sarah Blackwell joined BTI in 2013, bringing a fresh perspective, creativity and attention to detail to every client project she works on. A highly talented writer, she becomes the “voice” of many diverse clients for their stories and blogs — no easy trick. It takes tremendous imagination to write about winter attractions when it’s eighty degrees and summer outside. Or to write as the “voice” of a season. There’s also the constant need to come up with new angles and pitch stories for clients, and Sarah hits the mark each time. She also finds, researches and implements new media. All this to help get our clients great exposure and effectively connect with their target audiences.

There’s nothing like working with travel and tourism giants Southwest Airlines and Disney to put real-world, “icing on the cake” experience on top of an education in journalism and public relations. Sarah had — and continues to have — a passion for PR, writing and storytelling. And because she worked with the best in the business in media relations, she knows just how to cultivate relationships with journalists full of mutual respect and benefit.

Sarah sums it up: “Pitching story ideas is about knowing who you’re talking to — knowing your client’s audience and finding compelling subjects.”

A transcript of this episode is available here:

May 17, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about how regions can collaborate together and pool resources to do things together that they could not do alone from Laury Poland.

As president of Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association (FLWCTMA), Laury Poland is responsible for creation, coordination, administration and implementation of all FLWCTMA programs and initiatives to promote economic development in the Finger Lakes region of the state of New York. A native of Rockville, Maryland, Laury began her employment at the Corning, New York-based tourism marketing association on September 30, 2013.

Before coming to the Finger Lakes, Laury was responsible for all advertising and promotions initiatives of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s (PLCB) Bureau of Marketing Communications, Branding & Design. During this time, Laury developed a keen interest in the wine and spirits industry, completing significant coursework in wine education. In her professional role with the PLCB, Laury constructed full-scale traditional and new media campaigns, including website development, digital advertising, and a social media presence through Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, as part of a $6M annual advertising budget. Laury also determined new areas of media to include in marketing and public relations efforts based on trends and technology. Laury wrote, produced and edited video projects for the PLCB’s 608 retail stores, Fine Wine & Good Spirits, and oversaw all print, web, radio, television and digital material, ensuring consistency of corporate brand image and messaging.

Prior to her time at the PLCB, Laury represented New York-based Church Pension Group Services Corporation (CPG) as vice president of Church Publishing Incorporated, from 2006-2011. Laury joined Continuum International Publishing Group in 2004, as director of Morehouse Church Supplies – a position she held until late 2005 when CPG acquired the book publishing, curriculum and church resource divisions of Morehouse Publishing. Laury was also a business owner, managing her own public relations, marketing and advertising firm, In-House Agency, from 1998-2004, serving as the communications specialist for numerous successful media initiatives. Laury holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism/Public Relations from the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Laury’s personal story of visiting the Finger Lakes as a tourist and how it challenged her conceptions of the region and allowed her to bring an outside perspective once she joined the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association
  • How to tell the story of the entire region and the success Laury has seen from doing this for the Finger Lakes Region
  • Giving your visitors an organic experience and letting them live like locals
  • Offering education opportunities for visitors in a way that doesn’t feel like the classroom
  • Why travelers are taking shorter vacations but packing more in
  • The study that shows that 81% of visitors who went to the Finger Lakes came back 5 times
  • Giving visitors the opportunity to find their own escape (and why you can’t find it for them)
  • Why the sum of the FLWCTMA’s parts is much greater than what the counties would have alone (ex: together they have the largest Facebook following for any wine region in America with 72,000 followers)
  • The FLWCTMA’s unique structure, why they act like a marketing agency and how funding flows throughout the whole system
  • The FLWCTMA’s integrated marketing plan, beginning with its website that sees a half a million unique visitors a year
  • Why word of mouth is the #1 referral and how it has evolved much in recent years with social media
  • The challenges Laury’s faced by collaborating with so many different organizations and how she overcame them by giving people the resources to do what they do best

Ways to contact Laury:

May 10, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about how to get 50% of all your customers from referrals.

Driven by a conviction that the business of selling creates freedom, David brings an exceptional 40-year career as a salesperson, speaker, coach, and author of “Are you for real?!” (Aviva, 2015), an inspiring sales-career survival guide. He empowers all types of individuals to new heights thanks to his time-tested methodologies, an ability to motivate others beyond their expectations, and his genuine joy in seeing others succeed.

David’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited early in life from parents who owned an Oriental rug company. At 15, he launched a business brokering the sale of used appliances, earning the princely sum of $200 per month in the 1970s. Upon graduating high school, he secured an entry-level job at a bank and quickly rose to managerial roles, becoming vice president six years later. David’s warmth, sincerity, and passion for person-to-person business would become an asset throughout his sales career, spanning many industries.

The roots of his coaching career go back 30 years when he overcame his wall in sales through an intensive personal growth process that led to exponential increases in his revenues. Today, David shares his secrets with others, using a coaching methodology based on the value of work and self. He imparts in his clients the belief that a willingness to change and become a better person will drive sales and business success.

According to David, success comes down to awareness, self-acceptance, self-development, communication, change, belief in yourself and the service you provide, and, most importantly, being honest and caring.

He resides in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York with his wife.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Understanding the tourist’s desires by thinking like them
  • Success in business through building and maintaining relationships with the people that will bring customers in your door (tour operators, travel agents, hotel concierges, taxi drivers, etc.)
  • How to get 50% of all customers from referrals (a number David saw during his time as Director of Tourism Marketing at B&H Photo Video) by delivering QSSP: Quality of Service, Selection, and Price
  • Making sure that you have team members that speak tourist’s language to make tourists feel comfortable
  • Training salespeople on products they sell so they help customers with their specific needs
  • Teaming up with non-competing businesses to provide customers with fantastic deals
  • How to get a tour operator in a foreign country to put your voucher in their itinerary packets
  • Building out a strategy for strategic follow up
  • Solving the time management problem
  • David’s book: “Are You For Real?!: Going From Excuses to Authentic Selling and Living Your Dreams” about authenticity as the key to personal growth
  • Focusing on the experience, not the sale
  • The importance of proactivity in the travel and tourism industry
  • The danger of making promises you can’t deliver on
  • Collaborating by referring customers to who can help them (if that person is not you) and how that will come back tenfold

Ways to contact David:


May 3, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about how the Museum Association of New York (MANY) is consistently growing their tourism efforts from Erika Sanger.

Erika Sanger joined MANY (Museum Assoc. Of New York) after serving twelve years as the Director of Education at the Albany Institute of History and Art. There she provided vision for the development of programs for adults, children, schools, and families, focusing on object-based learning and digital initiatives. She had led the institute’s digital renaissance, most notably with the launch of a new website and creation of interpretative strategies around hand-held digital devices and interactive media.

Erika has gained her extensive arts experience through positions held at renowned institutions including the International Center of Photography, the Jewish Museum, the New York Historical Society, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Asheville Art Museum in Asheville, NC. She served as Director of Development at Penland School of Crafts in Western North Carolina, where she was actively engaged in the region’s artists community, and participated in the design and implementation of campaigns for capital and endowment funds. She has also developed program assessments with Harvard University’s Project Zero, the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching, and with the education department at the University at Albany. Programs produced under her direction have received funding from major organizations, including the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.

Erika holds a B.F.A. from Clark University, in Worcester, MA, and an M.A. from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

The Annual Conference of the Museum Association of New York will be in April 2018 in Rochester, NY, details to follow.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How the Museum Association of New York encourages its members to stand out and appeal to visitors around the globe
  • Collaborating with the strong cultural institutions throughout the state to attract visitors not just into New York City, but to all of New York state
  • How legislators and local governments make a HUGE difference in our cultural institutions, and how to get them on your side
  • Current challenges facing museums and cultural institutions today and how they are affecting visitors
  • How the Museum Association is changing up their programs this fall to push tourism to new heights
  • The interplay between different cultural institutions on a local level and what that means for a community
  • Museum’s crucial role in New York tourism and economic development
  • Leveraging partnerships to attract international travelers
  • The importance of attracting visitors to other areas of the state and the usefulness of the I LOVE NEW YORK app

Ways to contact Erika:

Apr 26, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about why collaboration at the regional level makes a huge difference from Valerie Knoblauch.

Valerie is President and CEO of the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection where she has worked since 1984 when she was hired as the organization’s first employee. In her role, she is responsible for guiding a team of tourism marketing professionals who are charged with promoting all of the fun experiences offered in Ontario County and the Finger Lakes region. Valerie thrives on the challenge of figuring out people’s motivations to travel and translating that into marketing programs that inspire travel to the destination where she lives, works and plays. Prior to beginning with the Finger Lakes Visitors connection, Valerie worked as a Tour Guide and Public Relations Manager for Gold Seal Vineyards in Hammondsport, NY after a career as a High School English teacher at Red Jacket Central High School.

Valerie loves to travel – imagine that. She also enjoys bicycling, wine, gardening, photography, and cooking. She loves the theatre, especially live theatre and musicals, and likes history – especially as it is interpreted to put into place “where we are today …”

Valerie is blessed with a very large family, many of whom have settled in the area. She has been married to her husband Kurt since 1982. They have three sons and three wonderfully diverse daughters-in-law and three grandsons. Valerie has friends across the world, because of her career in travel and tourism and because of her multicultural family. She loves learning every day from all of the characters in her life.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The importance of analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, and surrounding yourself with people who complement your skill set.
  • How the regional Hike & Bike collateral piece and her ‘Slice, Dice & Spice’ event were ahead of the curve in showcasing local assets.
  • Using creative ways to meet the challenges of stretched resources.
  • The importance of communicating ROI to stakeholders and knowing which metrics to report.
  • The importance of agreeing, up front, what the desired outcome is when collaborating
  • The indirect impact of a thriving tourism industry.
  • Using research and a strategic marketing plan to identify opportunities for extended stay and return visitation.
  • Reaching visitors while they are in the destination to encourage extended stay and return visitation.
  • How Ontario County engaged their Board of Supervisors with National Tourism Week.

Ways to contact Valerie:

Apr 19, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about how leveraging your social media in the tourism industry can help you to bring in more visitors from Brittany Gibson.

In her capacity at the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, Brittany is responsible for promoting Schuyler County’s tourism industry by creating and implementing tourism marketing and public relations programs. She is also responsible for developing and implementing programs to increase the visibility and credibility of the Chamber. Brittany serves on the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council Board of Directors, the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance Marketing Committee, the Schuyler County Planning Board, and the Community Development Corporation Board of Directors. She volunteers her time serving as the coordinator of her family’s charity organization, Team Charlie.

Brittany’s areas of expertise include marketing, advertising, public relations, social media, and event planning. She is passionate about the Finger Lakes and is eager to see Schuyler County continue to grow – both in business and tourism.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • What sets the tourism industry in New York state apart from everywhere else
  • How Brittany seeks out creativity through collaborating with surrounding counties
  • Using social media & consumer email marketing to express creativity
  • Why you need to assess which social media channels will work best for you & your business
  • How Watkins Glen Chamber’s Instagram following recently exploded from around 400 to over a thousand in a matter of 1.5 months
  • Why getting engagement from the locals is important when it comes to tourism
  • Why Brittany loves helping small businesses leverage their partnership with the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Why you need to go out of your way to build relationships with people
  • TALES – Tourism & Leadership Exchange Summit: the first ever tourism conference being hosted in Schuyler County
  • Why it’s important that frontline staff & the community view tourism as a leadership role
  • Three big events/things that the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce are excited about this year
  • Why Brittany loves to host travel bloggers/writers in Schuyler County (which she did with almost 50 bloggers/writers between May 1st – September 15th last year!)

Ways to contact Brittany:

Apr 12, 2017

In this episode, you will learn from Ramjee Chandran about the evolution of tourism publishing, and why creative content is as important now as it was in 1989.

Ramjee Chandran is an entrepreneur, writer, publisher, and musician with 27 years of publishing experience. As a journalist, his articles have been published in India and other countries. Most of Chandran’s publishing career involved magazines related to the tourism industry including city guides and business travel magazines – both print and online.

The first city guide he launched was on March 31, 1989, for his hometown of Bangalore, India. In the years following, he launched the “Explocity Guide” series of city guide magazines in several destinations including New York City, Dubai and several major metros in India. Other magazines included Executive Traveller and other city-based lifestyle magazines.

Ramjee Chandran received investment from a US-based venture capital fund in 2000, and a few years later, a meeting with publishing mogul Rupert Murdoch led to Murdoch picking up a 25% stake in Chandran’s publishing enterprise, Explocity.

Chandran was awarded the prestigious “Chanakya Award” for Innovative Leadership by the Indian Council for Public Relations and was named one of 10 best entrepreneurs from the state of Karnataka, India by online giant, (REDF – NASDAQ).

Recently, Ramjee launched a website for New York State: and runs this in an exclusive strategic alliance with the experienced tourism company, Destinations Of NYS, based in Saugerties, NY.

Chandran is also a jazz guitarist and has performed on stage with internationally acclaimed jazz musicians and at international jazz festivals. He believes that the one thing he does with more mediocrity than playing jazz is his other distraction, playing chess.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The story behind Ramjee’s first destination magazine, and his shoestring budget
  • How Ramjee learned to scale his enterprise up from 1 magazine out to 3 countries
  • How Ramjee sought creativity from his content
  • Why you need to listen to what people want and find a creative way to present it to them
  • Ramjee’s biggest challenge, scaling, and how he made it work
  • How Ramjee evolved his business from a single print publication to what it is today
  • Why digital scaling is much easier than print scaling
  • The story behind Ramjee’s new website
  • Why collaborations between publishers is rare- but how Ramjee makes it work
  • What makes tourism communication so exciting
  • How Dubai has developed a phenomenal tourism enterprise in such a short time

Ways to contact Ramjee:

Apr 5, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about the importance of creating opportunities for both guests and other small businesses from Debbie Meritsky.

Debbie is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute and has worked in the food industry for over 30 years with an emphasis on local, organic, and seasonal ingredients. Debbie is co-owner of the Black Sheep Inn & Spa located in Hammondsport in the Finger Lakes region of NYS. As the Inn chef, she is an avid proponent of sourcing local organic foods and the clean food movement in the Finger Lakes region. Debbie prepares delicious farm-to-table breakfasts for her guests, sourced from within 50 miles of the Black Sheep Inn & Spa. She also enjoys sharing with her guests those techniques on how to create this lifestyle at home, wherever they may live. Debbie’s other passion is art, and, specifically, creating art from recycled and repurposed “ingredients”. Debbie and her husband Marc created the Arts in Bloom Art Trail to showcase the fantastic art being created in their area. In its 5th year Arts in Bloom is a family-friendly, free community event that features live demonstrations at artist studios and galleries on the trail.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Debbie’s background
  • Why Debbie loves doing farm-to-table & how that helped form her business
  • How Debbie likes to give her guests experiential opportunities when staying with them at the Inn
  • Debbie’s philosophy of, if you’re not having fun doing something then your guests aren’t going to have fun
  • Why you should source what is available now to bring the best to your guests
  • Why it’s not about money – it’s about opportunity
  • Why forming partnerships with other small businesses is one of the biggest but most important challenges you will face
  • The story behind the family-friendly, free community event, Arts in Bloom & the F.L.A.V.O.R. Studio at the Inn
  • The many opportunities for partnerships with the over 100 distinct breweries, cider houses & distilleries in the Finger Lakes region
  • How knowing how to cross-sell can help you create more opportunities
  • The importance of finding local small businesses that understand and want to excel at forming partnerships
  • Why, as tourism partners, you need to build your story to tell the outside world

Ways to contact Debbie:

Mar 29, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about non-profits in the travel and tourism industry from Jacob Taddy.

Jacob Taddy is the founder and Executive Director of Onwards, a non-profit organization connecting people through unique travel experiences that empower local entrepreneurs. After working on service projects in the Navajo Nation, Skid Row in Los Angeles, and construction sites throughout the US and the Caribbean, Onwards was born when founder Jacob Taddy recognized a need to shift how he, and others, were talking about and providing domestic and international aid. Onwards seeks to shift from short-term solutions and volunteer projects to long-term, sustainable economic development. By providing microloans and business training to local tourism based business owners, Onwards empowers local entrepreneurs to tap into the largest industry on the planet, tourism, to create jobs and direct tourism dollars into communities that need it.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • What the next generation of travelers is looking for
  • How the idea for Jacob’s non-profit organization, Onwards, was born and how it finds ways to direct travelers to communities that need it
  • How Onwards creates authentic experiences
  • Onwards level of integrity behind what they do
  • How Onwards top priority is providing the biggest benefit to the community
  • Jacob’s biggest challenge: convincing people to go places that they’ve never heard of, and how he overcomes it
  • Why Onwards puts the faces of entrepreneurs at the forefront of their organization
  • How Onwards is showcasing models of community development in Haiti & the DR
  • The benefit of non-profits not treating each other as competitors
  • The importance of focuses on strengths in a partnership

Ways to contact Jacob:

Mar 15, 2017

You have heard our guests talk about co-opetition- that really cool thing that happens when competitors come together to collaborate on a project or program in order to create something bigger than they could have done on their own. This podcast recaps ten strategies for successful collaborative partnerships that we have learned from our guests.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Strategy #1: Communication — why clear communication requires talking on the phone or in person — not just through email (David Holder)
  • Strategy #2: Bring the right resources to bear — why you must know when to bring in outside help when you don’t have the necessary expertise needed for a project (Ralph Thompson)
  • Strategy #3: Set realistic expectations — why it’s so crucial to make sure that all project collaborators understand what realistic project success looks like — especially in the short term (Meg Vanek)
  • Strategy #4: Form relationships that lead to partnerships — why networking is the way that successful collaborative partnerships get off the ground (Kelly Rapone)
  • Strategy #5: Have a shared vision — why it’s so important that all collaborators envision the same outcome for a project (Jennifer Ackerson)
  • Strategy #6: Find commonality — why successful partnerships have to come from a place where partners share something in common (Leah Mueller)
  • Strategy #7: Set deadlines — why you need doers (not talkers) in your partnerships (Leah Mueller)
  • Strategy #8: Ask for solutions — why you shouldn’t present solutions to your partners or stakeholders and should instead bring them into the discussion (Dan Fenton)
  • Strategy #9: Have a can-do attitude — why you need to approach every project with the attitude that it will succeed (Kelly Blazosky)
  • Strategy #10: Be Genuine — why you should underpromise and overdeliver in your partnerships (Kristy Kennedy)
Mar 8, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about how New York is consistently growing their tourism efforts from Gavin Landry, the former Executive Director of Tourism at Empire State Development.

Gavin Landry joined Empire State Development (ESD) as the Executive Director of Tourism in March of 2013. Mr. Landry’s appointment came at a time of continued tourism growth across New York State and amidst the launch of a series of new tourism initiatives by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Thanks to the support of Governor Cuomo, tourism has become the fourth largest employer in the State.

As former Executive Director, Mr. Landry lead the iconic I LOVE NEW YORK marketing campaign where he developed and implemented new initiatives to further the State’s positive tourism growth. Mr. Landry also worked closely with the New York State Tourism Advisory Council, which provides input and advice regarding the state’s tourism efforts.

Before joining Empire State Development, Mr. Landry ran Landry Hospitality Consulting Services, where he provided full-service hospitality consulting to hotel developers and owners. Mr. Landry ran commercial hotels for a professional management company in markets such as Detroit, MI; Columbus, OH; Charlotte, NC, and Somerset, NJ. He has also served as president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, a post he held for 12 years. During that time, he served as the President of the NYS Association of CVB’s (2000-02). Gavin was the recipient of the 2016 Excellence in Leadership Award by the NYS Tourism Industry Association. A graduate of Cornell University, Mr. Landry served as an adjunct professor at New York University’s (NYU) Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management for five years where he taught graduate courses in various disciplines of the tourism industry. In February of 2013, Mr. Landry was the recipient of an award for teaching excellence from NYU, one of 20 given across nine teaching disciplines. Mr. Landry is a member of the Cornell Hotel Society.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • “It’s all here. It’s only here.”: How Empire State Development gets visitors that could travel anywhere to come to New York
  • Using the “I LOVE NEW YORK” brand to attract visitors beyond New York City and into all of New York state
  • The support the New York tourism industry has received from Governor Andrew Cuomo (including $55 million in 2017)
  • ESD’s experiential marketing team’s I LOVE NEW YORK “traveling pod” that includes interactive digital experiences to help raise awareness for events and attractions all over New York State
  • The impact of ESD’s digital initiatives like the I LOVE NEW YORK app that has been downloaded over 100,000 times since 2015
  • ESD’s social media efforts that have resulted in I LOVE NEW YORK being the #1 most followed state tourism office on Twitter and one of the top state tourism offices on Facebook
  • ESD’s partnership with Beautiful Destinations on Instagram where they’ve created some amazing video content
  • How ESD uses a matching funds program and tourism grants for funding local efforts in the different regions across New York
  • The recent growth of the agritourism industry under New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
  • Leveraging partnerships to attract International travelers
  • The incredible return on investment New York State has seen in the tourism industry (an investment of $170 million became nearly $8 billion!)

Ways to contact Gavin:

Mar 1, 2017

This episode is a little different from most. We will be hearing from a tireless advocate and NYS tourism industry promoter, Mike Linehan. This interview was recorded in October 2016. Mike was gracious in volunteering to be one of Destination on the Left’s first interviews. He was very patient with me and my audio team as we were learning the ropes of podcast production.

Mike and I had a fantastic conversation and he shared many insights from his 30 years in the tourism industry. The audio from our interview however didn’t record properly and most of the interview was unusable. Mike was very kind when I explained what had happened and offered to reschedule so that we could get a good audio file. Unfortunately, our schedules did not align and Mike passed away unexpectedly on February 15, 2017.

Mike’s vision, his tenacity, his insights, his humor are part of the foundation of tourism in New York State. So, I went back to that bad recording and found 20 minutes of our conversation that I want to share with our listeners. We can all continue to learn and benefit from Mike Linehan.

Mike Linehan served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Yates County Chamber of Commerce for 24 years. Born in Hammondsport, NY, Mike settled in Penn Yan, NY after spending several years in the state of Colorado.

Mike’s formal training included courses of study at St. John Fisher College, Corning Community College, Finger Lakes Community College and the Institutes for Organization Management at the University of Oklahoma, where he was a graduating member of the Class of 1999.

Mike was a member of: the Keuka College Community Associates Board serving as Chair since 2000; NYS Tourism Industry Association where he served as past president; Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; Loyal Order of Moose; Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council where he served as Chair; Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association where he served as Chair and the Chamber Alliance of New York State.

In his spare time, Mike enjoyed cooking, gardening, and boating on the Finger Lakes. He lived in Penn Yan with his wife, Molly, daughters Meaghan and Morgen, and dogs Moses and Maggie.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The challenge that arose after Penn Yan was flooded in May 2014 and how they overcame the public misperception that Penn Yan was closed after the media focused on the damage of the flood
  • Penn Yan’s efforts to redevelop the waterfront that Mike was beginning to focus on in October when we conducted this interview
  • Why dissenting opinions are so important in achieving the best final product
  • Examples of working within regulations and working to get onerous regulations lifted
  • The importance of visiting your elected officials when they’re home in your district

Tourism websites:

Feb 22, 2017

In this episode, you will learn how every traveler makes a difference from Kristy Kennedy, Vice President of Marketing and The Director of Tourism for the Adirondack Coast Visitor Bureau (ACVB), a division of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

Kristy has been with the ACVB since 2008. In her current role, Kristy leads the Visitors Bureau’s efforts in developing and implementing a yearly strategic marketing plan to increase tourism in Clinton County.

A Plattsburgh native and a graduate of Plattsburgh State University, Kristy was named a Face of our Future by Strictly Business magazine and in 2008 Kristy was named New York State’s Virginia Allan Young Careerist in acknowledgment of her personal and professional accomplishments, writing ability and public speaking. She went on to place in the top 10 in the nation.

Before joining the Chamber, Kristy worked as Office Manager and Marketing Coordinator for
Fesette Realty. Prior to that, Kristy held the role of Marketing & Promotions Coordinator for 95 Triple X and 620am WVMT Radio in Burlington.

Outside of her work at the Chamber, Kristy enjoys listening to live music, exploring the local food scene and creating one-of-a-kind dishes in her kitchen. She is a self-proclaimed Crazy Cat Lady and spends as much time with her better half Shannon and her family as possible including two full-of-life nephews.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why the ACVB doesn’t get caught up in the “heads in beds” mentality and focuses on all travelers – even the ones that don’t stay overnight
  • How every traveler creates their own domino effect for the region
  • The ways ACVB makes the most of their small budget and three person team
  • The locational benefits of going bilingual
  • How the AVCB helps their stakeholders be as prepared as possible by hosting customer service seminars
  • “Where the mountains meet the coast:” the story of how the Adirondack Coast name came to be
  • The integrated social content plan that helped the ACVB use social media reach all their demographics
  • How competing attractions work together to grow the ACVB in a way that helps everyone succeed
  • Why Kristy loves an outside perspective on the ACVB and keeping the master plan updated

Ways to contact Kristy:

Feb 15, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about what can be done to build a destination’s brand from David Holder, the former President of Visit Syracuse.

David Holder did not grow up in Central New York, as you’ll recognize from his slight southern drawl and love of cheese grits. He may not be a native but he is definitely one of the area’s greatest cheerleaders. A love of the outdoors, weather (yes, you heard correctly), great food, and overall quality of life drive David’s passion for the Syracuse area. When he was President, he translated that love into a killer brand position for Visit Syracuse, one of six accredited DMOs in the state of New York, leading the effort to Do Your Thing and amplify awareness of Syracuse for convention planners, sporting event organizers and leisure visitors from around the world. Prior to joining Visit Syracuse, David directed the tourism and economic development efforts for the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia, led the Steuben County Conference and Visitors Bureau in Corning, New York and conducted community based strategic planning for the Texas Tourism Division. He earned both a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Science in Tourism Management from North Carolina State University.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • David’s background
  • Looking for opportunistic disruptions: finding how to push your product in unusual ways
  • How David turned Syracuse into the Official Home of Winter to capitalize on the long winters of Syracuse and turn it into a real asset
  • The Snow Angel Challenge: The initiative that Syracuse and The Salvation Army are entering together
  • Why the perception of your residents is just as important as the perception of visitors
  • The importance of getting the community on board with your initiatives
  • Building your brand around emotions when you don’t have one massive asset
  • The support system of destination marketing organizations throughout New York that Syracuse is a part of
  • How David helped improve the relationship between Visit Syracuse and CNY Arts so that they work together
  • Why digging your heels in isn’t the right answer when trying to reach a common goal

Ways to contact David:

Feb 8, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about tracking conversions from Ralph Thompson, President and Chief Brain of eBrains.

Formally trained as in finance and as a CPA, Ralph gained basic experience with Price Waterhouse Coopers and then moved on to NYSE regional banking firm where he advanced to become a top finance and administration executive over 10 years. He took his first entrepreneurial step as co-owner and COO of The Martin Agency (an Ad Age Agency of the Year) where he grew the company from 20 people to 250 over a 10 year period before selling it to Interpublic Group. His next adventure started when he co-founded eBrains to focus on digital marketing in the travel and tourism industry. eBrains is celebrating its 18th year. The company was sold three years ago to a DC marketing holding company and Ralph remains in his role as President and Chief Brain. Ralph enjoys using ample blessings of both sides of the brain to help brands leverage the digital marketing space to drive more measurable incremental ROI. He enjoys spending time with his wife of 48 years, two children, 3 grandchildren and collaborating with friends and colleagues. Ralph enjoys golf, wine, great food and travel.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Ralph’s background
  • How Ralph used co-registration with Virginia Tourism to reduce the cost of sending out travel guides from $12 to $2 at a time when co-registration was looked down upon
  • How Ralph has figured out how to track a much higher than average percent of conversions
  • How Ralph used digital strategies to inspire overnight stays in Buffalo and Niagara Falls from nearby Ontario Canada travelers.
  • Why a simplistic measurement is better than no measurement
  • How Ralph encourages his team to invent best practices rather than follow best practices
  • The mobile Cost Per Action (CPA) network that Ralph is working on
  • Why you need to leverage your own resources and develop strategic partnerships to deliver the best possible product
  • How to find the best partners or “co-petitors”
Feb 1, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about working with partners to create a niche culinary trail from Meg Vanek.

Meg Vanek is the executive director of the Cayuga County Convention and Visitors Bureau and has served in this capacity for 20 years. She is originally from the Finger Lakes but left the region at 17, graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and worked in the property management and hospitality industries in southern California and England for 14 years before returning to the region. In addition to her position as executive director of the Cayuga County Convention and Visitors Bureau, she also serves on the Board of Directors of the NYS Tourism Industry Association, the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway, the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council, as well as several other tourism related committees.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Meg’s background
  • How Meg has helped Cayuga County stand out from the crowd by presenting a unique experience for the visitor- The Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail
  • How Meg blended agriculture and culinary assets together in The Finger Lakes Sweet Treat Trail
  • What’s coming up for the Sweet Treat Trail in 2017.
  • How competitors worked together on the Sweet Treat Trail to grow their own businesses
  • What great partners look like to Meg
  • A business that thought outside of the box in order to be eligible for the Sweet Treat Trail
  • How Meg set realistic expectations for new partnerships
  • The Sweet Treat Trail’s upcoming appearance on HGTV

Ways to contact Meg:

Jan 18, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about using partnerships to maximize effect from Kelly Rapone.

Kelly has been Tourism Marketing Director at the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce in the Buffalo Niagara region of NYS for the past 13 years, and a part of the Chamber’s Tourism program for 18 years. In her role, Kelly manages implementation and development of the overall tourism marketing program for Genesee County. In addition to her work at the county level, Kelly has been instrumental in several regional and statewide tourism marketing initiatives including the roles of regional administrator for Greater Niagara Region, project manager for Country Byways of the Greater Niagara Region, and project coordinator for the War of 1812 Honorary Peace Garden Trail brochure.

Kelly is also the founder and administrator of the Haunted History Trail of New York State. The Haunted History Trail of New York State began in 2013 and features attractions from almost every region of New York State including haunted dining, tours, attractions, events and accommodations, with many of the attractions tying back to New York’s local history. In 2015 the Haunted History Trail of NYS was recognized with an Excellence in Tourism Marketing Award Statewide by the New York State Tourism Industry Association. It is the only state-wide paranormal tourism trail in the country.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Kelly’s background and how she became the Tourism Marketing Director at the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce
  • How to identify and focus on niche markets
  • The challenges Genesee County has faced standing out against much bigger destinations
  • How Genesee County has collaborated with other destinations
  • A newly renovated visitor center, a redesigned website, and other projects that Kelly is working on right now
  • Some of Genesee County’s very unique assets and how she founded the Haunted History Trail
  • Making the time to form relationships that lead into great partnerships

Ways to contact Kelly:

Jan 11, 2017

In this episode, you will learn the skills that transfer from working client side to agency side and traits every PR professional should have, from Colleen Knopeck, Associate Consultant at Break The Ice Media.

Colleen uses her passion for writing and storytelling as an Associate Consultant at Break The Ice Media. She brings with her demonstrated success in proactive media relations and brand marketing communications for B2B, B2C, and B2E audiences. Colleen holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication: Journalism/Media Studies from SUNY Geneseo and a Master’s Degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from St. Bonaventure University. Her enthusiasm, attention to detail, and commitment to exceeding expectations are reflected in her work, and in the results she drives for her clients.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • What Colleen does at Break The Ice Media
  • How Colleen uses the experience she brings from the client side
  • What clients want from agencies
  • Key qualities in a PR professional
  • Passion and persuasion and why these traits are important in PR
  • Why a love of organized chaos is beneficial in PR
  • How Colleen ties it all together in an ongoing campaign


Jan 4, 2017

In this episode, you will learn about using hashtags over a variety of social media channels and how to use Instagram effectively from Jessica Reilly, Associate Consultant, at Break The Ice Media.

Jessica is a graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Political Science. She started at Break The Ice Media in 2016 and brings with her a duality of knowledge, combining her classical PR training with marketing skills. She has a passion for social media and analytics. Her personal strengths include a love of research, and a strong sense of curiosity. She brings a fresh perspective and attention to detail to all the client projects she works on.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • What Jessica does at Break The Ice Media
  • Why travel hashtags are important
  • Three main challenges with hashtags
  • What makes hashtags on Instagram different than other platforms
  • What you need to know about creating your own hashtag
  • Travel hashtags that you need to know about
  • Why Instagram is a tremendous platform for the travel/tourism industry
  • Instagram takeovers: why having someone else take over your Instagram account can be a great idea
  • Ways to find great Instagram content to share


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