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Tourism proposal lauded by local officials

2013-01-09T19:36:00Z 2013-01-09T19:38:04Z Tourism proposal lauded by local officialsBy MAURY THOMPSON--thompson@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for revamping the state tourism marketing program in his State of the State speech.

“We have the assets. We just need the marketing,” Cuomo said Wednesday in his speech in Albany.

A PowerPoint presentation he showed included a photograph from the Adirondack Balloon Festival.

The current system, in which each county receives state funding to promote tourism, would be replaced with a system in which neighboring counties would collaborate to prepare regional marketing plans.

Various regions would compete to receive a share of state funding.

The strategy mirrors the regional system for distributing economic development funding that Cuomo implemented in 2011.

A recent study Cornell University students completed for a state tourism task force showed people planning vacations identify with destinations such as “the Adirondacks” or the “Lake George region,” instead of specific counties, said state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury.

“So he (Cuomo) believes, and I think that study proves, that people look at tourism on a regional basis. And I think we need to market it that way,” she said.

“For years, I’ve said that travelers could care less about county lines,” said Assemblyman Tony Jordan, R-Jackson.

County tourism officials, however, have a better understanding of what the marketing focus should be in their respective counties, said Peter Aust, president and chief executive officer of Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce,

“So I think in one way, I think having the county having some ability to determine where those monies are directed, provides a little more oversight and more targeted focus,” he said.

Aust said Cuomo’s regional economic development strategy has been successful.

“And so we would be open to hearing more about his idea of how he could utilize that same model to fund tourism promotion and campaigns on a regional basis,” he said.

But he would be concerned if the regional tourism plan follows the same geographic boundary as the economic development plan, under which Warren and Washington counties are grouped with counties in the Albany area.

In tourism, the local counties have more in common with counties in the Adirondacks, Aust said.

“I would hope that the governor would have the insight to understand that the same geographic boundaries of the economic regional councils are not going to serve as a tourism regional council,” he said.

Little said the boundaries can be discussed.

“It’s flexible, I think, as we do this. But certainly, I like the concept of it,” she said.

In other tourism initiatives, Cuomo proposed holding a national white water rafting race in the Adirondacks, and opening three casinos upstate to attract New York city residents north.

Local legislators said Cuomo offered some good ideas, but they wished he had more to say about regulatory reform and mandate relief.

“I was very encouraged about his economic development plans,” said Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury.

“Hearing the fifth one (State of the State speech) now, you do realize this is their platform to talk about what is relevant to them. But for him to completely ignore mandate relief and regulatory reform, ignores two of the biggest problems we face,” Jordan said.

“I heard a lot about mandated programs, but I didn’t hear much about mandate relief,” said state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon.

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