Local tourist attractions could get a promotional boost as Montgomery County officials consider re-entering the state’s “I Love NY” matching funds program.
The county opted out of the program, which ties local tourism promotion to the state’s “I Love NY” tourism brand, in August 2011 in an effort to save money and simplify their system.
Tuesday night, the county Economic Development and Planning Committee met to discuss a tentative $120,000 tourism promotion budget for 2013, which includes a significant amount of “I Love NY” funding.
According to Economic Development Specialist Jacki Meola, the county is in the early stages of securing $35,000 in matching funds from the state program.
The Board of Supervisors has the power to turn down those funds as they did in 2011. It may seem counter-intuitive for a cash-strapped county to refuse state money, but that is what some want to do.
“I’ve been getting complaints from some of the bed and breakfast owners in my community,” said St. Johnsville Town Supervisor Dominick Stagliano, who serves on the Economic Development and Planning Committee. He hopes the board decides to re-enter “I Love NY” but can see why the bed and breakfast owners are opposed to doing so.
Tourism promotion is handled by the county Department of Economic Development/Planning with funding from an occupancy tax, known as the bed tax. When a hotel room is rented, 4 percent of the bill goes into an account to fund tourism promotion. It adds up to between $60,000 and $65,000 per year.
So far in 2012, that money has been spent mainly on administrative costs, advertising and small grants to local businesses holding events. The 2013 budget makes some changes.
In order to land $35,000 from the state, the county must put up the same amount for a combined $70,000, according to “I Love NY” regulations.
“All advertising must be outside of a 50-mile radius of this area,” Meola said. “So if we had an event in Canajoharie, we couldn’t advertise in The Daily Gazette.”
So Stagliano’s bed and breakfast owners would likely never actually see the advertisements their bed tax bought.
Meola described a whole list of paperwork as “hoops to jump through” within the program. All projects have to be approved by “I Love NY” and advertisements fitted with their logo at a certain size.
“Some people don’t think the money is worth the effort,” she said.
Even so, Meola said applying for some funding is the smart thing to do. Only a portion of the budget will be used to match “I Love NY” funds, with the rest going to local events and promotion, along with a portion of the organization’s cash reserves.
This year, funds were allotted to South Side Tours, the annual Renaissance Fair at Windfall Dutch Barn and concerts in Amsterdam and Canajoharie. Meola said funds will be available for similar events in 2013.
The portion that does fall under regulations can be used to improve the county’s online presence through search engine optimization, which “would help county restaurants and hotels pop up when someone searches for the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame,” according to Meola.
It’s this sort of long-range advertising presence online that Stagliano said the county needs in order to bring in tourists. “We don’t have mountains or lakes here,” he said. “We need the help to bring people in.”