People don’t often think of Schenectady as a prime tourist destination, but Talia Cass is working to change that.
Cass, 23, of Schenectady, was recently promoted to the position of tourism and convention manager with the Schenectady County Visitors Agency, a nonprofit corporation under the auspices of Proctors, to help increase the local tourism economy.
“I’m so passionate about this area,” Cass said Wednesday. “I went to SCCC for my first year in school, and I’ve seen how much downtown Schenectady has changed. This area has a lot of potential to grow even bigger.”
Originally from Duanesburg, Cass graduated from The College of Saint Rose in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in public relations and advertising. After completing an internship at Proctors, Cass was hired as an account manager.
As the new tourism and convention manager, Cass said she is excited to showcase downtown Schenectady and the rest of the county to people who have never experienced it.
“SCVA’s mission is to promote Schenectady County as a destination, to travel, live and work and host a company’s meeting,” Cass said. “We want to bring new people here.”
Last year, the organization held several “familiarization tours,” also known as FAM tours, to market the county to planners working on their next convention. SCVA, also known as Visit Schenectady, hopes to host around five FAM tours each year.
The DoubleTree by Hilton that opened this past November, as well as the announcement of the Rivers Casino and the addition of three more hotels by 2017, will increase the area’s banquet and meeting spaces, which Cass said will provide ideal locations for meetings and conventions to be held in Schenectady.
In the fall, Cynthia Demarest, president and CEO of New York Community College Trustees with the SUNY System Administration, was beginning to search for potential locations in the state to hold one of the company’s annual small conferences.
New York Community College Trustees, which is located in Albany, received an email about one of Visit Schenectady’s FAM tours that piqued Demarest’s interest.
“We held a conference in Schenectady around 2008 or 2009, but when I went on this tour, I was amazed at everything that had changed,” Demarest said Thursday. “I was so impressed.”
The FAM tour included a walk through Proctors Convention Complex, Key Hall, a tour of the Parker Inn & Suites and the DoubleTree by Hilton, a driving tour of lower Union Street, the Mohawk Harbor project and the Schenectady Amtrak Station and lunch at a local restaurant downtown.
“We saw so many things that had been renovated or I just didn’t know about,” Demarest recalled. “Proctors, . . . the Armory, . . . everything is just so beautiful. A lot of Schenectady is incredible and so historical; it’s great to see they’ve brought it back.
“This year, our convention is in Cooperstown, but we’ve been talking about returning to Schenectady, which was the impetus for going on the tour,” Demarest added. “[The tour] covered everything and made it very easy to think about the entire event from start to finish.”
On Tuesday, the SCVA announced two conferences are confirmed to be held in Schenectady this year, including the Theater Manager National Conference from May 7 to 9 at Proctors, and the New York Community College Trustees will hold its annual business meeting and Regional Trustee Education meeting April 22 to 23 with 40 attendees.
The meeting industry estimates each conference attendee generates approximately $300 per day, according to a release from Schenectady County.
Cass said the SCVA is also focused on getting people from the Capital Region and outside of the area to visit Schenectady from places like Binghamton and Utica, as well as Bennington, Vermont, and western Massachusetts.
This year, the nonprofit corporation is also putting together Broadway getaway packages with two tickets to a show at Proctors, a stay at a local hotel and a visit to a local winery or brewery to help increase Schenectady’s tourism economy.
“My biggest goal is to help change the perception people have about Schenectady, which has been a real struggle for us,” Cass said Thursday. “A lot of people who live in Albany, Troy or Saratoga don’t know what Schenectady looks like. Schenectady is changing. . . . Schenectady is something great.”
For more information about FAM tours and what the Schenectady County Visitors Agency offers, email Talia Cass at [email protected] or visit www.visitschenectady.com.
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, [email protected] or @KateSeckinger on Twitter.