Skip to Main Content

Empire State Tourism Conference Award Recipients Announced

Mar 8, 2012

The New York State Travel & Vacation Association (NYSTVA) announced the recipients of its "Excellence in Tourism" awards at a luncheon during the 6th Annual Empire State Tourism Conference, held March 7 at the Marriott Hotel, Albany, NY.

NYSTVA’s Tourism Excellence Awards, now in their third year, recognize leaders and accomplishment in New York State’s travel and tourism industry.

In the category for Tourism Marketing, Dutchess County Tourism was selected for its “You Deserve Dutchess” campaign.  The nomination was submitted by Deborah Garry, President of BBG&G Advertising and Public Relations, which assisted Dutchess County Tourism on the project. 

As part of the judging process for the Tourism Marketing award, nominees had to demonstrate planning and implementation of an overall marketing strategy that is creative and innovative, and resulted in increased attendance, public/private partnership, media exposure, website activity, and/or consumer response. According to Conference Chairperson Suzanne Bixby, the judges selected Dutchess County Tourism because its marketing campaign, “demonstrated an innovative and multilayered approach to marketing that took full advantage of traditional and new approaches.” 

In the category for Economic Development, Dutchess County Tourism was selected for its “Farm Fresh One Day Getaways” program.  Mary Kay Vrba, Director of Dutchess County Tourism, submitted the self-nomination on behalf of the tourism office and its program partners.

For the Economic Development award, judges were looking for projects that foster economic development and/or enhance a destination as a result of revitalizing a downtown, adaptive reuse of a historic structure, and/or encourage development of a tourism attraction. Bixby notes that the “Farm Fresh One Day Getaways” program stood out to the judges because it “has a huge and immediate economic impact component but it also captures intangible benefits like connecting upstate communities with New York City residents.”

The Last of the Mohicans Outdoor Drama, Inc. was awarded the 2012 Excellence in Tourism Award for Cultural Heritage. The theatrical production was selected for the award in recognition of its efforts to expose visitors to New York State’s unique cultural aspects, increase visitation to its community, and stimulate the local economy. The winner was nominated by Maura Fox, from the organization’s board of directors.

Nominees for the cultural tourism award could be those that included community promotions exclusively featuring arts, history and/or culture, interpretive exhibits; websites or printed materials; special events such as festivals, and trails (e.g. wine & food, history or recreation). According to Conference Chairperson Suzanne Bixby, the Last of the Mohicans, Inc. was recognized by the judges because it supports the historic aspects of the Lake George region and is an interactive way of promoting American literature. “This is a very unique tourism product,” said Bixby. “The works of James Fenimore Cooper are a part of our state’s literary treasures, and it is exciting how this organization is utilizing the local historic infrastructure and landscape to bring his words to life for – in their words - an ‘edutainment’ experience for all.”

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce was given the Visitor Services Award. The Chamber was selected for the award in recognition of its effective strategy to welcome visitors to Genesee County. The chamber was nominated for the Visitor Services Award by Chan Patel, Owner/Operator of the Clarion Hotel/Palm Island Indoor Waterpark.  

As part of the judging process, the nominee had to demonstrate that it is working strategically to welcome visitors more effectively.  According to Conference Chairperson Suzanne Bixby, the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce was recognized for its implementation of a Visitor Welcome Channel, available in over 600 hotel rooms in Genesee County.  Said Bixby, “Strategies that are considered in choosing an award winner include: staff or docent training, tourism readiness workshops, informative and visitor-friendly websites, or interactive visitor centers focused on going the extra mile to serve the public.  The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce has certainly demonstrated that it goes the extra mile with the visitor services channel.

At the closing banquet on March 7, it was revealed that the War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail was recognized by conference attendees as the winner of the first-ever “Conference Attendees’ Award for Excellence” during the conference.  

Prior to the conference, NYSTVA sent out a call to action for award nominees in four categories: visitor services, economic development, tourism marketing and cultural heritage.” A judging committee chose recipients for each category from all submissions. During the conference, attendees were invited to review all the nomination packets and submit a ballot for their favorite project across all submissions and categories. The War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail received the most vote, and a plaque will be designed to mark the honor.

The War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail was submitted for consideration of the Cultural Heritage Award by the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse of Rochester, NY, one of 20 locations along the Trail. Although that award was presented to another project, Conference Chairperson Suzanne Bixby believes the right project received the attendees’ award for overall excellence. “Judging by the cheers that went up at the announcement, it is evident that the Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail resonates in the hearts of fellow tourism professionals familiar with the Trail’s efforts to operate and promote this multi-regional program that benefits businesses in remote areas along the trail.”

The annual Empire State Tourism Conference is hosted by the New York State Travel and Vacation Association (, a trade association for tourism industry stakeholders across the state. The conference brings together about 200 professionals for two days of professional development and networking.  Since 1971, the NYSTVA mission has been to be the tourism industry’s leader in communication, legislative awareness, professional development and promotion.