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Tourism promoters voice happiness with state budget

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Tourism promoters, especially in Jefferson County, are happy with the state’s 2013-14 budget, which they say features a renewed focus on supporting their industry.

“There’s a lot more activity focusing on tourism than I’ve seen in a while on the state level,” said Gary S. DeYoung, executive director of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, Jefferson County’s authorized tourism promotion agency.

“Jefferson County has always been active. At the state level it has come and gone, come and gone,” Mr. DeYoung said.

In addition to longstanding Matching Grants and I Love NY programs, which have been perennial favorites, an additional $7 million for tourism will be up for grabs this year as part of a program called Market NY.

“The $7 million in new funding for the ‘Market NY’ promotional efforts” — focusing on state-grown products — “when coupled with funding for the existing I Love NY and the Matching Grant programs, will only further strengthen the state’s vibrant tourism economy,” said Jane Marie Chesterton, president of the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association, in a released statement.

Though the details for that program have yet to be ironed out, Mr. DeYoung said he expects that money to be distributed through the governor’s new Regional Economic Development Councils, which allow regions to compete against one another for money.

In the past, county officials have questioned the wisdom of using a region-based approach to market the county’s attractions, fearing some sites will be overlooked.

“We know our county. When you start regionalizing it, you start diluting it,” said Legislator Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown and chairman of the Board of Legislators’ Finance and Rules Committee, in January.

But, according to Mr. DeYoung, using a region-based approach makes sense when it comes to brand awareness.

Tourists visiting from outside the area may not be familiar with Jefferson County; they would probably be more apt to recognize the Thousand Islands-Seaway region, one of the 11 regions identified by the state’s I Love NY program.

The Thousand Island-Seaway region is composed of Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties.

Those tourism-based regions are distinct from the 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, which are focused on creating jobs and economic growth.

Some sources of funding have decreased slightly while other sources have shifted around.

Mr. DeYoung said Jefferson County received $86,000 in matching money for magazine and television marketing, an amount slightly less than last year but up from a few years ago.

“Our allocation has been as high as $120,000 and as low as zero,” he said.

The county has to match the state’s amount to receive the money.

The I Love NY program, the state’s core tourism marketing program, received a fairly modest $3.5 million in funding this year, Mr. DeYoung said.

But that number is deceptive, according to Mr. DeYoung, because programs can now draw on money from the NY Open for Business initiative, which offers a much larger pot of money — $50 million.

With so many overlapping programs and initiatives — I Love NY, Market NY, NY Open for Business, Tourism Regions and Regional Economic Development Councils — Mr. DeYoung acknowledged the issue can be confusing.

“It’s difficult to understand,” he said. “But it’s all good.”

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