County Executive Rob Astorino is a communicator with a sense of vitality that commands attention to the words he speaks and the ideas he puts forth. On a porch overlooking the Hudson River where many visitors to the magnificent Lyndhurst Mansion have stood, he presented a bold and comprehensive branding campaign to attract visitors and tourists alike to Westchester County.
According to the literature within the “Meet Me in Westchester County” press packets, tourism within the County grew by 8% in 2011, and more importantly, the $1.7 billion in revenues returned Westchester to levels not experienced since the recession which began in December 2007. In an effort to build on the momentum, Westchester County has dedicated $300,000 from the “hotel occupancy tax” to promote tourism through advertisements on radio, in print and online within a 100-mile radius.
Prior to this Westchester branding launch, Phoenix Marketing International from Rhinebeck, NY and a specialist in travel and leisure research conducted both a quantitative and qualitative study of 1,000 Westchester residents and non-residents. In addition conversations were held with community leaders, and out of this study Phoenix put forth “The Positives” and “The Challenges” facing Mr. Astorino and his staff.
In essence the positives were that Westchester County is seen as a “short getaway destination” that is affordable and easily traveled to. The County is also known by businesses for its number of venues and fine dining. Lastly and most importantly, people looked forward to learning more about what the County has to offer.
The challenges as presented by the marketing firm were to “build a compelling destination image from the ground up with limited resources.” In addition, the County has to “encourage repeat visitation” and have people recommend Westchester to others as a tourism destination.
Lastly, a greater awareness of all that the County has to offer needs to be achieved. To that end “Westchester is meetingful” is an approach to businesses with County literature stating, “Does an off-site business meeting have to feel like a business meeting? Not in Westchester County. You’ll find venues for small meetings and large conferences in state-of-the-art facilities. When the business day is over, there’s so much to do and see including hiking, biking, gourmet dining, cultural activities, historical sites, family events and fabulous fireworks all summer long.” In keeping the current summer theme the County also has “Westchester is summertastic” promotions that read, “Fill your water bottle. Strap on your helmet. Push off the pedals. Westchester County’s for biking. The extraordinary trail system spanning the County has miles of scenic views and many beautiful sights.”
When asked about projecting how long this branding program would be Mr. Astorino said, “We’re starting off with our toe in the water. We wanted to find out what people thought of Westchester both from within and from those who don’t live here. It’s a heavy destination for business travel. Business people will come in spend a day or two and then leave. They will stay in a local hotel, dine here and possibly see a local attraction. Hopefully we will get them to come back with their families for a weekend or two here. Obviously on your side of the County [River Journal circulation] people have Sunnyside, Lyndhurst, Kykuit, trails, and restaurants along the Hudson River. There are many things people can do that they don’t know exist. In addition we want to attract people with children who may only want to drive a short distance. Locally there are a lot of things that can be done in Westchester by our residents. We’re asking them not to rediscover but discover the County. We have 18,000 acres of parkland. We have the Long Island Sound and the Hudson River. We have award winning restaurants and chefs. There are many things for kids to do such an amusement park and all the historical sites. I want people to have a better appreciation of what Westchester has to offer.”
The County Executive’s approach to fostering a stronger economic climate in Westchester through the “Meet Me in Westchester County” initiative is admirable and timely. With people seeking value for dollars spent in an economy cast in a grey shadow, local attractions easily traveled to and ranked high on anyone’s pleasure scale are a welcome alternative and a positive affirmation of where we live.
[blockquote class=blue]www.visitwestchesterny.com for opportunities that abound [/blockquote]