Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans Wednesdayday to triple the state’s investment in tourism.
The $60 million announcement capped Cuomo’s daylong tourism summit, designed to help rev up the industry’s economic engine. Funding will be distributed to I LOVE NY campaigns, creation of a Sports and Special Events Commission, niche marketing to the LGBT community, promotions highlighting New York products and other efforts.
The event also included three work sessions to generate ideas.
Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau President Todd Garofano said the funding announcement and the summit itself, which brought together tourism officials from all over the state, signaled that the governor understood the economic value of tourism.
“I was thrilled with the summit,” he said.
Cuomo highlighted the economic benefits of the state’s tourism industry, noting it supports 714,000 jobs and generated $57 billion in direct spending last year. The point of the summit, though, was that the state can do more.
According to state figures, more than 4.6 million people annually take an overnight trip in the Capital Region. About $1.6 billion is spent every year by travelers to the area, and tourism is responsible for more than 33,000 jobs in the region.
The governor’s goals for the summit included identifying ways the state could promote its tourism assets, fostering regional coordination of tourism ventures and recognizing possible attractions the state could host.
Cuomo acknowledged the regional approach to tourism flew in the face of the ongoing lobbying counties are doing to become sites for live-table casinos, if a constitutional amendment is approved.
“We don’t want … counties competing with counties,” he said.
In order to ensure casinos have a regional benefit, the governor said the host community would get a share of revenues and surrounding counties would also share in the revenues.
Regarding the possible second passage of a casino constitutional amendment by the state Legislature this session, Cuomo said he was “cautiously optimistic.”
Saratoga County Fairgrounds General Manager Jeff Townsend said during a workgroup session that he came to summit to learn what people are looking for in a host facility. The main goal of his fairgrounds, he said, is the county fair, but they need to attract events the rest of the year to support their main mission.
“I’m excited that the state is putting this much concentration on developing more tourism and more visitors,” he said.
Townsend was encouraged by the event, including the regional collaboration focus from Cuomo. Because county fairs in the Capital Region have different dates, he said coordinating the events could ensure each tap into the people who love county fairs.
“You start with us and then you go to another region and another region,” he said of people attending county fairs. “It’s destination tourism.”