Fred Bonn of New York State Park, Finger Lakes Region, and his management team, oversee 29 facilities across 10 counties. In 2018, Finger Lakes Parks has welcomed over 3. 8 million patrons who enjoyed hiking, swimming, boating, golf, and camping. Prior to joining New York State Parks, Fred served as the director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Currently, he serves on the board of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, and the State Theater of Ithaca. He also represents New York State Parks on the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Fred about regional collaboration from the perspective of a state-run entity. He has some fantastic success stories to share about working to enhance the visitor experience at the parks he and his team manage and paying attention to all the resources that abound beyond the park borders. He also ends with arguably our most delicious co-opetition story yet, so listen in for a truly special episode.
Even if you’re just a little cabin in the woods, you are part of a wider region where people are spending time vacationing. The more you can look beyond your individual business, the more opportunities you will find. For Fred Bonn and the Finger Lakes area state parks, that meant not just thinking about hikes and camping, but about the regional wines, craft beverages, history – everything that draws people to visit the Finger Lakes region. Travelers don’t pay attention to town or county lines when they are planning their itinerary, so the more local businesses, public entities, visitors bureaus, and DMOs can work together to market a region – the more pie there is to share. That is the lesson Fred continually learns and preachs to others in his work.
Controversy is sticky. People pay attention when there is a controversy. So when Ithaca, NY found out that Two Rivers, Wisconsin was trying to lay claim as the birthplace of the ice cream sundae, war may not have been inevitable – but it made for some good headlines. It was the perfect opportunity for some good old-fashioned co-opetition.
Both towns agreed to boast that they were the first, with the thought that maybe they would get some national media attention. Not only did it work, but when a media outlet would interview one town, they would call the other to give them a few clues about how to keep stoking the flames. “Reality” TV is not the only place where fake controversy can pay off- publicity from friendly rivalries can be a great way to garner attention and a win-win for both participants.
Sam Filler serves as the executive director of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the main trade association responsible for statewide investments in research and promotion on behalf of the New York wine and grape industry. He previously served as director of industry development at Empire State Development. In that role, Sam worked closely with the alcoholic beverage industry and policymakers to implement governor Andrew Cuomo’s Craft Beverage Initiative. Sam is a graduate of Vassar and New York University. He serves on the boards of Cornell Agritech Advisory Council, National Grape Research Alliance, Wine Market Council, and New York Kitchen.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Sam about the intersection of the craft beverage industry and travel and tourism. The regional nuances, especially of wines and other craft beverages, create a tremendous opportunity for destinations and the beverage makers who call that region home.
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
Craft beverages are becoming a huge industry. Every town and hamlet, it seems, has at least one winery, brewery, and distillery, dispensing locally hand-crafted wine, beer, and spirits.
And of course, all of those adult beverages are a big part of the travel and tourism industry. Wine and beer trails are becoming more popular and drawing in a larger audience. These trails and other craft beverage related events present a great opportunity for beverage makers, regional hotels, restaurants and other destinations to work together to create a unique and memorable visitor experience.
STRATEGIES AND TACTICS
One of the challenges of collaborating with multiple players in a given region is figuring out who is in charge of what.
With a project like a wine trail, the point person is likely running a business full-time alongside this volunteer commitment. Sam saw the need to develop a “set of tactics and strategies that we can offer to these wine trails that they can kind of pull from and know that there are tried and true techniques to attract the right people.”
So through the Wine and Grape Foundation set about to provide exactly this kind of strategic direction and some real tools that can filter down to the smallest, smallest winery.
Tami Brown currently serves as the General Manager for the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, the only independent aquarium in Ohio. Tami promotes the tenets of “servant leadership”, and her fascinating career path has wound between the arts and culture industry and the travel and tourism industry, giving her unique insights into both.
Tami has spent her career working with attractions in northeast Ohio including the Western Reserve Historical Society, the Center for Contemporary Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Cleveland International Film Festival. She served as Vice President of Marketing for Positively Cleveland, a non-profit dedicated to using tourism to drive economic vitality throughout the region. She also serves on many boards of directors, including the Ohio Travel Association, the Tourism Ohio Advisory Board, the Center for Community Solutions, and Flats Forward (representing the Flats neighborhood of Cleveland).
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Tami about the overlap between the arts and culture industry and the travel and tourism industry, and why that often-overlooked relationship has the potential to be a powerful driver for both industries. Listen to our conversation, and learn how effective partnerships can benefit everyone involved.
One of the major challenges we the travel and tourism industry face is in finding new ways to promote ourselves. Tami provides a great example of the benefits that partnering with other organizations can provide. Her contacts within both the cultural and tourism industries have allowed her to use outside-the-box thinking to come up with innovative marketing possibilities.
There is an obvious and logical overlap between tourism and the arts and culture industry that is too often ignored. By reaching out and forming cross-industry connections, we can form strong relationships that have broad-reaching effects.
Opportunities to promote our industry are everywhere, as long as we remain open-minded and ready to cooperate. We already know the dramatic economic impact that destination marketing can have, so the natural extension of that mindset lies in coordinating our efforts wherever possible. Through its partnerships with businesses and organizations in a variety of industries, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium is leading by example. That’s why it was my great pleasure to speak with Tami about her efforts.
Beth Erickson has served as the President and CEO of Visit Loudoun since 2014. Visit Loudoun is in Loudoun County, Virginia and in 2016 alone, they generated almost $1.69 billion in travel spending and supported more than 17,000 jobs in the travel industry and adjacent businesses.
Prior to her current position with Visit Loudoun, Beth served as the Vice President of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, a non-profit organization that works to raise awareness and support for the 180-mile stretch of land lying between Gettysburg, PA and Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation home, Monticello. In 2008, the partnership was recognized by Congress as a National Heritage Area. Beth chairs the government affairs committee for the Virginia Restaurant Lodging Tourism and Hospitality Association. She also serves with numerous organizations including the Loudoun County Comprehensive Plan Stakeholder Committee, Loudoun County Economic Development Commission, Loudoun County Economic Development Authority, and many more committees and boards of directors. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work.
On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Beth about the wildly successful work her organization has been doing to turn Loudoun County, Virginia into a popular and respected travel destination and well-connected cultural center. Listen to our conversation and discover how education, collaboration, and storytelling have served as powerful tools for building up the local travel and tourism industry and have had wide-reaching effects for the entire region.
Aside from the tremendous economic impact the travel and tourism industry has on an area, destination marketing is a wonderful way to tell the story of a location. Through coordinated education efforts and cooperation with local and state organizations and elected officials, the ripple effect from marketing efforts can boost an entire region.
In Loudoun County’s case, the efforts Beth and her organization are making have been major contributing factors in opening up new avenues for growth. It has helped expand local transit and athletic opportunities, and certainly been an influence on Amazon’s decision to locate their HQ2 a mere 50 miles from Loudoun.
As Beth illustrates beautifully in our conversation, cooperation with others has been a powerful tool to help tell Loudoun County’s story. By working with the state tourism office, elected officials and other organizations, Beth’s coordinated efforts have paid dividends for the local travel and tourism industry helping to expand the local economy with new and exciting opportunities for both visitors and residents.
Our industry is a remarkable engine for regional growth and cultural development. There are countless opportunities for thinking outside the box while growing your reputation as a worthwhile travel destination. That philosophy of innovation and teamwork is precisely why it was such a pleasure to chat with Beth and hear her insights.