“As someone who’s been to all 62 counties a few times in the last year, I can tell you that this state is on fire,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul at an Oct. 18 tourism and craft beverage summit in Albany. “There is only one New York City, and we know that is really the gateway for millions of visitors coming to our state. But how do we get them from New York City up to see the rest of the state?”
An “unprecedented” $55 million investment is being dedicated to attracting new visitors and advocating for New York state’s attractions, both in New York City and upstate. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan is to keep “the momentum moving forward.”
In order to increase New York’s exposure to potential visitors, eight tourism offices have been opened around the globe. Hochul cited the Australian office as an example of how these are generating interest in the Empire State.
New York’s rich history is another asset, the lieutenant governor said.
“We’ve become very strategic in how we promote our history,” said Hochul. “We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage,” said Hochul. “Women’s right to vote started right here. We’re going to showcasing the historic tours related to that.” The 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York is 2017.
While New York City is a huge hot spot for tourists, there are many other attractions that New York state has to offer its visitors. “What the governor has done is put an intense focus on trying to find ways to make all of our industries prosper,” Hochul said.
Some of those investments made have been in the craft beer, wine and cider industry.
“In 1976, I think the first year I was legally able to drink…there were ten wineries,” said Hochul, “today there are over 400.”
Microbreweries have also made a huge contribution in the tourism of New York, increasing their presence by more than 275 percent in just the last few years. Hochul’s “test” for an upstate community coming back and thriving begins with the establishment of a microbrewery. “Once there’s a downtown brewery, and it starts with that, it changes the whole psychology of a community, and I’ve seen it happen over and over all across upstate New York,” Hochul said. “So it’s an impact that you really can’t quantify, but it’s very real.”
New York state cideries have tripled in number since 2014, increasing from 8 to 24.
A new law signed in September allows farm wineries, breweries and cideries to sell any New York-made farm alcoholic beverage by the glass at their production facility or off-site branch store.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball said, “Thanks to the Farm Cideries Law, New York’s apple industry is stronger than ever before, more jobs are being created, local businesses are flourishing, and consumers are enjoying our world-class apples in a whole new way. Governor Cuomo recognized the potential for this success and I thank him for his continued support of the entire craft beverage industry.” There are over 570 New York cideries, wineries, breweries and distilleries that use New York-grown ingredients. This is a 178 percent increase from 2011.
The growth in craft beverages is expected to continue as the state revises its blue laws that had restricted the sale of alcohol on Sundays, prevented bars from opening near churches and schools, and limited how wine, beer and cider could be sold, and by whom.
“We had antiquated laws on the books since prohibition that stopped the potential for growth,” said Hochul, “the governor says ‘make them disappear, they don’t make sense.’ They’re gone, and that’s exactly why you see this incredible growth.”
Other investments that are helping to attract tourists, according to Hochul, are those to the state fairgrounds and the annual State Fair itself. The governor announced plans earlier this year to remodel the fair’s main gate, expand RV parking and camping areas, improve infrastructure in the fairgrounds and enlarge the midway area.
In talking about the New York State Fair, Hochul said “the governor realized, you know, for decades we would have sort of took it for granted, and we never leveraged it to its full potential the way we have just recently. We have had record attendance and it just shows how the investments have truly paid off.”
According to Assemblyman William Magee, who authored the bill making it easier for farm breweries, wineries and cideries to sell their products, “investing in tourism here is great for the economy in so many ways.”
One of the new upgrades to the State Fair this year is the new taste of New York Market which sells locally grown food and beverages by vendors who had the opportunity to directly promote their products, Magee pointed out.
Other attractions that catch tourists’ attention are the agricultural stands on the New York state Thruway.
“It’s incredible to see the transformation,” said Hochul. “There’s fresh apples grown in New York State for sale at the Thruway stops.” New York produced more than 1.36 billion pounds of apples in 2015, nearly 8 percent higher than 2014. New York’s apple production value is estimated at $275 million, an almost 10 percent increase from the previous year.
By 2020, an estimated $900 million will be invested into New York state parks, according to the Governor’s Office.
According to Hochul, Letchworth State Park in Livingston and Wyoming counties, and Watkins Glen in Schuyler County, were voted number 1 and 3, respectively, for best state parks in a national poll. On top of that, New York state also has the most ski resorts of any state in the country with more than 50 resorts. The next state, Colorado, has less than 30.
“We invest in a lot of money, but incredibly we’re seeing beyond expectations return on that investment,” said Hochul. Thanks to these investments, there has been more than $8 billion in returning revenues to the state of New York.
“There’s been an economic impact of over $1.2 billion. That’s unbelievable,” said Hochul. “We’ve had a record 234 million visitors come to our state, [a] 15 percent growth since 2011. That makes a difference, particularly in smaller upstate communities…every community has something to showcase. They needed a little bit of extra help from the state of New York, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Getting the word out about upstate New York has been helped out in large part by new advertisements in airports.
“We’re here to celebrate the growth of tourism, and the governor has played a huge role in that,” said Sen. Betty Little, a member of the Senate Tourism Committee. “[The lieutenant governor] mentioned the airport signs and posters, and [the posters] on the subways and on buses. Nobody ever thought of that before.” Little continues, “But what a [great] job that has done in attracting people to our area.”
“As someone who spends an enormous amount of time at our airports as well, I like nothing more than walking through the terminal and seeing life size posters showcasing the glorious beauty of upstate New York,” said Hochul. “When we think about truly what we have here, there is no other state that compares to the vast variety of attractions, natural attractions and manmade attractions that we have here in the state of New York.”