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Westchester: Tourism Adds $1.7B to County's Economy

County to kick off "Meet Me In Westchester" tourism campaign, previewed at Lyndhurst on Wednesday.

On a scorchingly hot morning, county officials gathered in the shade of mansion to announce the launch of a new Westchester branding campaign just in time for summer.

County Executive Robert P. Astorino says a new study has found tourism in Westchester grew by 8 percent in 2011 to $1.7 billion, returning to pre-recession levels and supporting 24,000 jobs.

To build on the resurgence, he said the county is launching a campaign called Meet Me in Westchester, based on a study of how residents, visitors and businesses perceive Westchester County as a tourism destination.

“Tourism has been gaining strength across all sectors – retail, recreation, food, beverage, lodging and transportation,” Astorino said. “The opportunity in front of us is to build on that momentum. One way to do that is to increase awareness of just what the county has to offer visitors as well as residents. The Meet Me in Westchester campaign is designed to do just that.”

The county's tourism numbers:

- Tourism represented 6 percent of the total jobs in Westchester in 2011.

- Westchester accounted for 54% of all travel and tourism spending in the Hudson Valley region, according to Tourism Economics, a consulting company that prepared the 2011 “Economic Impact of Tourism” report for the New York State Department of Economic Development.

Phoenix Marketing International of Rhinebeck, which specializes in travel and leisure research, conducted research on Westchester County as a travel destination. The study surveyed 1,000 Westchester residents and non-residents living within a 250-mile radius of the county and included in-depth conversations with key stakeholders and community leaders.

Key findings include:
    The Positives
    •    Westchester is viewed as a short getaway destination that overall is affordable and accessible.
    •    Visitors know that Westchester offers many venues for business as well as fine dining experiences.
    •    Visitors look forward to the opportunity to learn more about Westchester’s offerings.

The Challenges
    •    To build a compelling destination image almost from the ground up with limited resources.
    •    To build awareness about all Westchester has to offer in terms of tourism opportunities.
    •    To encourage repeat visitation and willingness to recommend Westchester as a tourism destination.

Westchester County Tourism & Film, a division of the County Executive’s Office of Economic Development that is funded by a portion of the hotel occupancy tax, is set to roll out the Meet Me in Westchester campaign in a series of print and digital advertisements starting in July.

The www.visitwestchesterny.com website, accompanied by social media, will also ramp up this summer so that visitors will have easy online access to great deals and special packages available at hotels, restaurants, retailers and destinations throughout the county, Astorino said.

 “Westchester has a great deal to offer both the leisure and business traveler,” said Dan Conte, general manager of the Westchester Marriott and president of the Westchester Hotel Association. “Branding and developing outreach programs that meet today’s market conditions are crucially important to creating and retaining customer loyalty. We applaud the County Executive and Tourism & Film for taking the lead in moving Westchester forward.”   
   
The Meet Me in Westchester advertisements will initially focus on a 100-mile radius of Westchester. The campaign will highlight some of the county’s top attractions, including hiking and biking trails, such as the Northern Westchester Trailway; extensive and unusual conference and meeting facilities, such as those at the Tarrytown Conference Center, the nation’s first conference center; and top restaurants in key locations, such as X20 Xaviars on the Hudson, which overlooks the Hudson River and the New York City skyline.

“Meet Me in Westchester will highlight our 18,000 acres of open spaces, many miles of hiking and biking trails, almost 900 restaurants and  6,000 hotel rooms,” said Natasha Caputo, director of Tourism & Film. “We think Westchester will be hard to resist once people know all the things we have to offer.”

Meet Me in Westchester was created by Tourism & Film in partnership with Thompson & Bender.

Meanwhile, Lyndhurst, undergoing something of its own rebranding campaign in the attempt to attract more visitors, was thrilled to be the chosen venue on Wednesday representing Westchester tourism. "We were indeed honored to be the hosts to such an event," said Lisa Buckley, Visitor Services Manager.

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