A Little Opinion About NYS Tourism Ads…

Next month is a big month for people involved in New York State tourism: the New York State Travel and Vacation Association is holding the Empire State Tourism Conference in Albany, from February 8th to the 10th. I won’t be able to attend, unfortunately. But that doesn’t hinder me from offering a few opinions about New York State tourism.

My main beef: Don’t treat Upstate New York as if it was an “alternative” travel destination. I have seen this so often. IF Upstate is even marketed, it’s marketed with a negative connotation. I’m sure that’s not the intent of the marketing agenda, but that attitude seems to be prevalent with a lot of the Upstate tourism marketing I come across. For example: I saw these banner ads while surfing information on New York State tourism:

I dislike them very much! They come across with a preconceived, negative attitude about New York tourism, and Upstate New York tourism in particular. As if to say, “Oh we know how hokey it is in Upstate New York, we know it’s always been the last thing on your mind to visit- but go ahead and give us a try this time!”

It’s a little insulting. :-p

I think Upstate NY should be treated with a little more respect. Upstate NY is a GREAT place to visit! We don’t need to be patronized— Upstate New York should be marketed for what it is! Upstate should not be marketed for what it is not, and especially NOT for what preconceived perceptions there may be about us here. Market Upstate New York for the great place that it IS. Upstate New Yorkers are weary of being treated as “the other New Yorkers” living in “the other New York.” I personally don;t like Upstate as considered as an “alternative afterthought” to it’s flashy and gaudy sister, New York City. Maybe I’m being too touchy… but I REALLY want to see tourism here rejuvenated. I dislike any marketing strategy with even the slightest hint of “try it out and see” or “the other” attitude.

P.S. I also saw this banner ad in the same bunch as the others, and while it was still kind of hokey, it made me laugh:

P.P.S. We are not Appalachia!

About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

Comments (11)

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  1. MW says:

    Love your article. Points well taken. But the truth of the matter is that Up-State New York has long been, and is being ignored and/or decimated by the policies of Down-State, which in many cases, are out of touch with the way “the other NY” lives and operates (Hence your disdain for these ads; I would bet they were created by well intensioned Down-Staters).

    Why would someone from NYC choose to drive or take a bus to get to the Catskill Region when they can get on a plane and be in Jamaica in almost the same amount of time? Jamaica has top-notch resorts and recreation opportunities compared to the regulation strangulated and intentionaly underfunded Catskill Region. I’m am all for a renewed vision on recreation in Up-State NY, but we first need a renewed vision for Albany.

    • Hey MW, thanks for your comment. No offense, but you are thinking like a Downstater! 😉 No, I don’t believe we need a renewed vision for Albany first. (Besides, we’ve been waiting decades for that to happen, I don’t think it’s going to happen). We will do this ourselves. Take me and this tiny little blog I have in the world wide web– even I in my own little way have helped some people rediscover Upstate New York. I do not think this is something that will happen “top down.” It’s gotta be grassroots, and that’s US. Whether we ever see a dime or a nod from Albany, it can’t matter. We are so low, how much lower can we go, anyway? We have no where to go but up, and we’ve got to get their ourselves.

  2. Jim says:

    Well, I can shed some insight on these ads as the chairman of the committee that created this program. They were designed by an Syracuse Ad agency who has done some very creative out of the box tourism advertising over the past 5 years.
    They have this theme because the intent was to play off the image that other states have of upstate NY. A rather large tourism impact study a couple of years ago found that to no one’s surprise that when most people in other states think of vacationing in NY, they are thinking about NYC. So when the state travel and vacation association launched this campaign it was to help change those perspectives a bit. These banners ran in Toronto, Ottawa, Cleveland, Harrisburg, NJ and Long Island. They directed people to the website where they could then choose from dozens of vacation options almost exclusively in Upstate NY. I can see how you might view them as negative, but in order of banner this is how we saw them. #1 – A vacation in Upstate NY is nothing like your past vacations, #2 NYS has much more to offer than just NYC, #3 Create new trip ideas by visiting Upstate NY and #4 was a funny way to get people to think about a NYS vacation. Let’s face it we have all spent a summer vacation with “Aunt Peg” and it isn’t always a vacation.
    I really appreciate your feedback and want you to know that the New York State Travel and Vacation Association is working very hard to increase the number of visitors to Upstate New York and the state as a whole.

    Jim Walter, Vice President NYSTVA

    • @ Jim: when you say, “They have this theme because the intent was to play off the image that other states have of upstate NY.” Ah!! Then they have done a marvelous job! I can certainly see how these kinds of banner ads have the NYC mindset. There is a sarcastic and witty edge to them, to be sure. But Upstate NYers are kind of touchy, and I admit to being one. Of course, the tourist department does not need banner ads targeted to Upstaters about Upstate, so I guess I can see why these are so. I lived in NYC for a while (for school), met so many national and international people– it was hard for me to try to convince everyone that New York is a STATE and it is not all asphalt and subways!

  3. Phill says:

    Well said. Another point – I’ve always found the fact that many of the things we have to offer upstate are never shown in ads or print. I rarely see copy or photos featuring alpine lodges, gorgeous rustic inns, village greens, wonderful craftspeople, or quaint villages. All the press and print tends toward our miles of wilderness. That’s terrific, but unspoiled nature and hiking is not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially city people. Having lived in NYC for twenty years, I can truthfully say that I had no idea there was anything upstate other than trees, mountains, and snowshoeing.

    • Phil, I agree wholeheartedly! When anyone on the “outside” thinks of New York State, it’s either Niagara Falls or the Adirondacks. I rub elbow with people all over the world, and that’s the common consensus. I don’t think that’s so terrible in of itself, but we here in Central New York and the southern Tier and Finger Lakes and Capital District would sure like to have people know that we exist! This has become the accidental mission of my blog, although I never intended it to take the turn that it has.

  4. tourpro says:

    The growth in micro-destination promotion is happening at a phenomenal rate. Many of the small communities and regions could not do what they can do now.

    I’m pretty sure these are not I LOVE NY ads. There are a couple other state-wide organizations that promote – NYSTSVA, NYS TPA Council, NYSHTA, etc.

    Upstate? Being way up here in the Adirondacks/Plattsburgh, I feel like that term doesn’t even apply to us. At least we have some recognizable difference from what everyone thinks “New York” is.

    I know for a fact that one of I LOVE NY’s priorities is to promote the entire state and to expand the brand to include more than just NYC. A difficult task, and one that is under-appreciated and under-funded.

    A larger issue is the lack of priority placed on tourism promotion in general. This is a proven investment that has proven ROI, but the industry is still ignored or given little attention as an economic development tool.

    Eh, I still love NY. Let’s face it, most travel happens in big destinations, much less in the off-the-beaten path. Saavy travelers know that unique experiences can be found anywhere and often at a lower cost.

  5. MW says:

    TourPro-“A larger issue is the lack of priority placed on tourism promotion in general. This is a proven investment that has proven ROI, but the industry is still ignored or given little attention as an economic development tool.”

    Absolutely. Pennsylvania is a prime example of wise investment in tourism promotion. While surfing recreation/tourism webpages or companies, it’s likely you’ll come across a ad. In fact sponsors pro bike racers who travel the whole NE Region with and EZ-Up and schwag to hand out where there is a captive audience. I Love NY pales in comparison.

    Micro promotion is exploding for NY becuase there is a real lack of promotion from the countless agencies who are supposed to be earning our tax dollars.

  6. Alice Audrey says:

    What do you want to bet all the ad guys live in NYC?

  7. Sheila says:

    One of the big irritations I have over postcard publishers is that they stick to the really big attractions, and often make them look tacky. It’s almost a vicious circle – you see so many Eiffel Tower illustrations that it seems to be the place to go, but there are so many beautiful, slightly more out-of-the-way places that are well worth visiting.

  8. Jim Walter says:

    @ Alice, that is why we used an Upstate Ad Agency that is well known for edgy, creative tourism marketing.