Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced an initiative to further Western New York's status as a diverse and dynamic tourism destination that builds upon the broad array of visitor experiences that lie just beyond the immediate Niagara Falls area. Eight counties - Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming - have formed a consortium to increase awareness of the region on the national and global stage. The consortium recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) that seeks a firm or team to provide destination positioning and a branding study in support of the development of the tourism industry throughout the region.
"Tourism is a vital part of New York's economy and with so many outstanding destinations and attractions in Western New York, the region has the potential for unparalleled growth," Governor Cuomo said. "By supporting this RFP we are ensuring that the region's many attractions are recognized on an international stage, and ultimately helping to create new jobs and economic opportunities for residents and businesses in Western New York."
Building on Governor Cuomo and the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council's (WNYREDC) efforts, the RFP for destination brand development for Western New York is available through the New York State Contract Reporter at www.nyscr.ny.gov/ and due by 4 p.m. on July 1. It is supported by a $300,000 grant awarded by the WNYREDC to the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation to issue an RFP and coordinate the branding plan.
"Developing a strong, clear brand promise that unites visitor experiences and can be sold to travelers in all key segments will capture the region's diversity and draw additional visitors to our region for longer stays," said Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation President & CEO John Percy, who is leading the consortium. "I applaud my partners in the eight-county consortium as we join forces for the betterment of the regional economy."
The selected firm will provide a roadmap for how the consortium, its partners and the entire region will implement the chosen brand, integrate it with existing efforts, and utilize the research and brand development to move the needle in the tourism market. The consortium expects that all work on the project will be completed and all deliverables will be provided no later than April 1, 2015.
Tourism is one of Western New York's biggest industry sectors employing 52,000 workers and generating $2.2 billion annually. Visitors spend an average of $50 per day at hotels, parks, cultural and entertainment attractions, natural attractions, and food and retail establishments. The international renowned natural wonder, Niagara Falls, is undoubtedly the region's anchor attraction, but Western New York is also rich in cultural and natural assets, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, H.H. Richardson, and Louis Sullivan architectural masterpieces; Lake Erie shoreline, Holiday Valley, Allegany State Park, Letchworth State Park, Darien Lake and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge recreational spaces; Albright-Knox Gallery and Chautauqua Institution for culture; professional sports; wine trails; and quaint villages that draw visitors from around the globe.
Governor Cuomo has already led the effort in Western New York by investing in the quality of tourism venues and visitor infrastructure, such as hotels, transportation, wayfinding and a skilled workforce in order to better attract statewide, national and international audiences and increase overnight stays and dollars spent.
Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and President of the University at Buffalo Satish Tripathi said, "Tourism's role in the Western New York economy is far reaching, with the industry supporting increases in private spending, state and local tax revenue, visitors and employment. This eight county consortium is demonstrating an unprecedented level of collaboration with tourism entities in our region and will ultimately establish a clear destination brand that will increase awareness of the region as a whole on the national and global stage."
Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and Managing Partner of Larkin Development Group Howard Zemsky said, "Tourism creates jobs and generates new economic opportunities for our region. This RFP will help us create a strategy that leverages our strengths and assets to drive additional awareness, overnight visitation and increased spending to Western New York."
Governor Cuomo also recently hosted New York state's second tourism summit. Building on last year's unprecedented support, the Governor announced the state's commitment of $45 million to promote statewide tourism, create jobs, and attract even more visitors to the Empire State. This 50 percent increase in state funding over the last year gives New York one of the largest state-funded tourism programs in the nation. The Governor also unveiled a new tourism advertising campaign featuring Ed Burns, Steve Buscemi, Billy Joel, Robert De Niro, Michael Strahan, Meryl Streep and Vanessa Williams. The ads can be found on YouTube here.
In 2013, New York's tourism industry generated direct spending of $59.2 billion, producing an estimated $7.5 billion in state and local taxes. The number of visitors to New York is estimated to have increased by 8.8 million and projected to finish at 218.8 million visitors in 2013. As the fourth largest employment sector in New York, the tourism industry also added 28,500 jobs in 2013 for a total of 832,500 jobs and generated more than $17.96 billion in wages. One out of every 12 jobs in New York is tourism-related.