Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Regional Tourism Council Profile

I Love New York region breakoutSo, I opened up a can of comments after my last post, “The Sustainable Tourism Equation.”

In that post, I attempted to convey the indisputable fact that in order for Adirondack communities to benefit economically from any increased tourism activity (resulting from increased marketing), those communities have to have cash registers in place to collect the money. If there’s no place to buy anything in a town (retail, restaurant, attraction, lodging), the visitors can’t contribute to the economy there. In other words, marketing is just part of the overall equation.

The comments on that post, however, drifted a bit from the topic. Some readers revisited the value of our wilderness product, and many echoed a familiar theme: everyone from marketing experts to self-proclaimed hermits all agree that someone should promote the collective “Adirondack experience” to the traveling public.

In reading those comments, I came to a few realizations.

First, those of us in the industry are so busy actually planning, developing and implementing Adirondack destination marketing strategies that we don’t prioritize telling those for whom we work so hard – the region’s residents –  what we’re up to.

Second, it would take more than one post to cover it all.

And third, I should try to unravel this mystery anyway, and it’s best to start with the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council.

ARTC 101

For just one park, we have more than our share of acronyms: ANCA, DEC, AMC, TNC, AARCH, AATV, APA… the list goes on.  Understanding the jurisdiction and mission for each of them is admittedly confusing.

I will reiterate that it would be ideal if someone waved a magic wand to allow for the implementation of one collective, undiluted, Blue Line-specific marketing effort for the Adirondacks. As it is, each business and community has its own approach to promotion.

However, there is one entity charged with promoting the region as a whole; the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (ARTC).

The ARTC has implemented a cooperative marketing strategy for over 25 years. With an average annual budget of about $800,000, that’s about $20 million worth of Adirondack brand promotion.

And they don’t do it in a vacuum. All of the region’s counties are in on it.  And they continue to collaborate because it WORKS.


The ARTC is a consortium of the County Tourism Promotion Agencies (TAP’s) in the State-designated the I Love New York Adirondack Region – (which is not Blue Line-specific as several of the County lines cross that boundary).

Seven counties comprise the I Love New York Adirondack Region; Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Lewis, St. Lawrence, and Warren. Each of the counties has designated a tourism promotion agent (TPA), whose representative serves on the ARTC board of directors.

The ARTC employs an executive director, who facilitates and implements an agreed-upon marketing strategy that meets the regional TPAs’ collective goals.

The ARTC also operates the Beekmantown Information Center on southbound Interstate 87 – a major entrance to the Adirondack Park from Canada. This center also serves as the ARTC administrative headquarters.


Each of the counties applies for I Love New York matching funds marketing money annually, and the amount they each designate for the region becomes the cooperative marketing program funding for the ARTC.

The ARTC also applies for matching funds for the region itself. As these are “matched” funds, the ARTC must provide its own money for the match (not the counties’ designated funds). To do this, the organization solicits corporate sponsorship when possible, and sells advertisements in its promotional materials which include the website, printed collateral, and promotional emails.

The I Love New York matching funds application process is complex, and requires a decoder ring to fully explain. In short, though, county applications are submitted for the maximum award they can match, based on estimates of the total funding that will be available in the state budget. ILNY determines the amount of the awards for county and regional TPA matching funds once both the total application amounts and budget allocation are known.


Here’s what you wanted to know: So what is the ARTC doing to promote the Adirondack experience?

Advertising: One of the commenters on my last post made it sound easy. 
They said: “Remember the I Love N.Y. commercials? There is not any reason the Adirondacks can’t have an equally catchy tune or phrase in a commercial that people will see nation wide. The only problem is some one has to think of one. Then turn it into a commercial.”

Easy peasy, eh?  Well, let’s take a look at reality.

First, the Adirondacks are largely a drive-to destination. A nationwide, or international campaign is logical for New York City or Los Angeles, but with limited marketing dollars, doesn’t it make sense to target the millions of potential visitors who live within a day’s drive of the Adirondack Park?

Second, the development and implementation of the ILNY “catchy tune” and international campaign cost millions of dollars every year.  We’re lucky, because as an enticing destination within the ILNY purview, we can ride on the State’s established coattails. But the idea of creating an Adirondack logo or jingle to scale with the ILNY brand is a pipe dream.

Third, a commercial that people will see nationwide, again, is out of the question, monetarily. I‘m no expert on TV ads buys, so I asked my buddy Tom Connors at Adworkshop, a marketing agency in Lake Placid, to provide me with some numbers.

As an example, Tom provided me with more information than I wanted to understand about buying TV in New York City. This designated marketing area (DMA) is extremely expensive because there are 7.4 million households, (as compared to Los Angeles at 5.6 million and Chicago at 3.5).

As I understood it, there are two basic ways to buy TV in the NYC DMA.  One is to buy spots on the cable networks. There are 47 cable zones in the NYC DMA. One could buy one 30-second spot over 10 networks, 10 times per week at $125-200/spot, and those ads would show sometime between 4pm and midnight. So, 10 30-second spots during this time period would cost between $12,500-$20,000 per week.

The other way to buy TV is via a point system on the major networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX). Depending on the show, there is a cost per point, and a 30 second spot would cost a different amount per point, depending on the broadcast time. For example, then, an ad during the morning Today Show would cost about $1,500. According to Tom, it would cost about $35-40,000 per week for a very moderate NYC network schedule.

TV: This all sounds negative, but I wanted to provide perspective. The ARTC marketing strategy does include advertising. But unlike, say, throwing darts at the sun, it is highly targeted to generate leads and show a return.

The ARTC TV summer campaign geo-targeted 5,600,000 households in the NYC/NJ, Rochester, Albany, and Buffalo DMA’s. These are interactive TV ads, which are only served to those households in the target market that have the digital receiver. 

In this media, when your ad runs, the consumer sees a message – and they can click a button on their remote to see more information and request materials, and in most instances, they also see the longer, three-minute version of the ad, which is a video showcasing our breathtaking region.

PR: The ARTC implements an aggressive public relations campaign in order to “position the Adirondacks as a civilized wilderness destination located within a days drive for more than 25 percent of the entire North American population, allowing a myriad of opportunities for outdoor recreation in a natural setting”. To accomplish this, ARTC contracts an agency to maintain momentum in both traditional and digital media outlets and to spread travel writers throughout the region to broaden coverage and showcase each area – all in collaboration with ILNY and the TPAs.

Promotional emails: The ARTC has a database of email addresses which represent leads generated from advertising and inquiries. They are segmented into interest topics and zip code, allowing for targeted emails promoting Adirondack fishing opportunities to those visitors who indicated that they are interested in fishing, for example.

Online: The ARTC also utilizes pay-per-view (PPV) ad campaigns on YouTube (the second largest search engine after Google). This campaign specifically targeted the Montreal and Ottawa markets in 2012.

And, the ARTC implemented web banner ads for specific niche markets such as fishing, and a targeted campaign for fall in the western New York markets in Syracuse and Rochester this year.

Website: www.visitadirondacks.com  
Over 90 percent of all travel research is conducted online, and a destination website is a critical part of an overall marketing strategy. The ARTC site provides visitor resources representing the entire region, including activities, lodging, events, trip planner, itineraries, group resources and more. The content is designed with search engine optimization in mind.

The intent of the website, in meeting the collective needs of the county TPA’s, is to welcome potential first-time Adirondack visitors who are then able to “drill down” to the individual county websites for detailed destination information about, say, Long Lake or Lake George.


Printed collateral: 
The ARTC develops several printed pieces/brochures on topics of interest for fulfillment and distribution. These include hiking, paddling, fishing, snowmobiling, scenic byways and more. These are used for distribution throughout the region at information centers, and for fulfillment via mail upon request as a result of advertising.

In the case of the interactive TV, when people request more information via their remote control, their contact information is sent to the ARTC fulfillment house – and the ARTC sends them a package of materials. This co-op mailing is paid for by the county TPA’s, to scale with the weight of their specific fulfillment materials.

Social: This is all enhanced by social networking presence – primarily on Facebook and Twitter.


Well, speaking on behalf of the TPA for Essex County, the ARTC cooperative regional marketing approach works.

As a shining example, the 2010 TV campaign leads resulted in a 45 percent conversion rate in Essex County. That means that of those who asked for information, 45 percent of them actually CAME HERE to visit!

In 2012, among other notable activities, the ARTC public relations campaign has garnered a number of placements in top tier media, including Outside Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Fox News, ABC, CNN and the Travel Channel.

Also in 2012, the summer geo-targeted TV campaign alone garnered 15,547 direct responses. The website generated 13,807 brochure requests to date. And website visits continue to go up – 15 percent over 2011.  

And we’re providing the detailed destination information that visitors seek; there were 74,246 outbound clicks from visitadirondacks.com to the TPA websites (through October, 2012).


Many of the comments I’ve seen recently focus on how balkanized the Adirondacks are, and how each municipality is in competition with the rest.

Although residents feel there is great competition within the region, the fact is, for YEARS, the NYS Division of Tourism has been asking ARTC representatives: “How do you work so well together?”  

The ARTC – seven counties successfully, consistently collaborating for 25 years – is held up as the ideal model for the entire State of New York.


As residents of the Adirondacks, it’s unlikely that we’ll see any of the targeted campaigns meant to drive leads generation and visitation to the region. But you’re in luck! I’ve got some direct links here to the creative – so check them out!




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Kim Rielly is the director of communications for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.

21 Responses

  1. You note that 90% of travel research is done on the web. As a landscape photographer who photographs the Adirondacks and North Country I am interested in how to reach an audience through the web so I recently ran some words and phrases through Google Trends to see how often they are used in searches. “Adirondacks”, “Adirondack Mountains” and “Adirondack Park” all show a steady downward trend (with seasonal upward bumps) from 2004 to the present. I ran some photo specific terms as well but in terms of interest in the region generally, there has been a distinct decline. Even when I add specific terms like “hiking”, “fishing”, etc. the trend remains downward in some cases half the number of searches as in 2004. Given the expansion in both population and Internet usage during that span of time, a downward trend of interest in the region is troubling. Part of the problem with the Internet is the vast variety competing for attention. When 90% of our visitors find the information on the web, how do we deal with the fact that fewer are looking for us each year.

    • Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Google Headquarters as part of the eTourism Summit and meet with the Google Travel Team and they spoke specifically to what you are writing about. It is true, destinations are finding that their broad keywords may have a downward trend. The reason for this is based on the evolution of search marketing and a combination of variables from search volume and specificity to brand awareness growing and the shifting attribution of visits to various sources and mediums. Additional insight can be gained via Google Trends in their support area.

      From my notes specifically at the Google presentation: “20 to 30% of searches daily are new search terms.” As marketers we review and update keywords frequently spanning across efforts in content and paid search management. Smart searches are growing because “searching” is a skill gained by everyone based on time spent online.

      Over the past several years visitadirondacks.com has seen consecutive increases in overall site traffic in the over 10% range year over year. The mobile site launched mid-July 2011 and has seen predicted year to year growth upwards of 4x that of the primary website.

      While visitadirondacks.com is seeing increases in visitation overall they are also seeing quality visitation as proven by the engagement with on-site goals such as brochures requests – 60% of brochure requests came from organic traffic in this past year.

      In summary, Google Trends is one of just many third-party companies providing perceptions that need to be taken into consideration with other information when reviewing visitor data. A downward trend is not necessarily a negative but part of a growing and complicated set of circumstances that will inevitably continue to change.

  2. Frank says:

    Explain what tourism does for the average resident? Sure it brings people to spend money at buisnesses many of which are not owned by locals anyway. Maybe it creates some low paying service jobs which I guess is better than nothing in the short term. I’ve been to many tourist destinations and thy end up making homes and buisnesses to expensive for locals and they have to move. Please educate me if I am wrong.

    • AlA says:

      Good evening. “Businesses not owned by locals”? Well, who owns them. Or, are you of the mind set that we, that own a local business that were not born and raised here that we are not locals?
      My wife and I purchased a small, 13 room motel in the Adirondacks 7 years ago. We are slammed!!!
      I employ 3 people that make more than the minimum wage, are happy working here and do not take public assistance.
      I refer all of my guests to the local restaurants, shops, sight seeing venues, etc.
      You sound like the type that may have retired in the area, are well off financially and does not need anything from the local economy and just wish the tourists would go away….
      Tourism does help many!!!

  3. JPH says:

    I live and work in Old Forge, a thriving resort community in the Adirondack Park. As the Executive Director of View, I would like to think that your efforts, which seem very well organized, would include this community. However, NONE of the activities mentioned in your article will benefit Old Forge as we are in Herkimer County. We are not included in the I Love New York Adirondack Region campaign. If you want to market the Adirondack Region, that should include ALL of the Adirondacks, not just part of it. Don’t be limited by the short-sighted tourism structure that defines New York State. Old Forge is in the Adirondacks, we have mountains and lakes, trails and rivers, wilderness an a thriving community. But NYS tourism has bundled Old Forge into its Leather Stocking Region. We cannot perpetuate this oversight as efforts like the ARTC gain momentum.

    • Lynn says:

      Does your county’s Chamber of Commerce or tourism board pay to be part of the I Love NY ADK Region? If not, that is why your region’s activities do not appear in promotional materials – as Kimberly states in her section on funding sources. Ya gotta pay to play.

      • AlA says:

        Your reply is a bit sarcastic. I work closely with our Visitor Centers and I am a member of ILNY. Help this guy out, tell him who to call!

    • Ron Ofner says:

      It should be noted that the Town of Webb/Old Forge used to participate with the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council’s promotional efforts, and contributed financially on an annual basis. However, for a number of years they have opted not to participate.

  4. Well indeed – I’m still astounded by the, well here I go, TOURISM CRAP! I guess I can start with the ANCA Scenic Byways website. Rolled out a couple of years ago (to the tune of 6 figures $) replacing a more bizarre website. http://www.adirondackscenicbyways.org/index.html I always like to go to the Town of Johnsburg and under the list of services see “Mechanic on Duty” “Cell Phone Service” “Campground”. Sorry – none of these exist. And who cares anyway – NO ONE USES THIS WEBSITE. Aside from a couple of tourists from England that might actually follow the Scenic Byway highway signs – the entire program is useless for Tourism promotion. But the federal grant was there – let’s use it. Moving on to the First Wilderness Heritage Corridor another useless website and failed tourism promotion. http://www.firstwilderness.com/ There is no search feature, just business listings. Who uses this site? I would love to see the metrics for all these wasted promotion web sites. I could go on and on – printed “guides” that have to include everyone in a fantastic grid in 8 pt. type – useless!

  5. Dave says:

    “Sure it brings people to spend money at buisnesses many of which are not owned by locals anyway.”

    Frank, where do you live? Or, I suppose, how do you define “local”?

    Where I live, the small businesses that benefit from tourists are all owned and operated and staffed by residents. Our entire community benefits from this.

  6. Frank says:


    • Matt says:

      There are an awful lot of small business owners in Vermont benefiting from tourism, and I agree Frank, some have in fact moved in recently to take advantage of the tourism market, and the Vermont “brand”. Some of the “locals” resent this; It’s old hat- the local sense of entitlement to being the only ones allowed to capitalize on their community, or have a sucessful business there(aka good ole boy club, etc). It’s the same old story in lots of places, and not just Vermont. And just what is an “average” resident anyways? Without some tourism in the economic equation, traditional uses of the land in VT would be a lot less viable, and less likely to be valued and protected. It’s sad, but true; some folks think it’s a deal with the devil. In the Adirondacks we fully understand that tourism will always be a big part of our reality and we have to work it out. The folks driving up from the city can look at cookie-cutter subdivisions as much as they want without leaving home. That’s something to consider.

  7. Pat says:

    Stop worrying about all these marketing issues. Once the ACR resort in Tupper Lake takes off the town and the whole adirondack park will be living the high life. And according to Mr Foxman if the project doesn’t fly we can just flush the Dacs down the drain. Why worry about something we have no control over?

  8. Guest says:

    The economy shouldn’t be so dependent upon tourism.

  9. scott says:

    “Come back to the Dacks!” “Americas oldest wilderness playground.”

  10. Tourism subsidizes local property taxes. Where do you think the local portion of sales tax revenues go? They pay for services and infrastructure like snow removal, sheriff patrols, bridge maintenance, etc. If you want your property taxes to go up, ban tourism.

    • AlA says:

      Ann, you have that right!!!! Homeowner school taxes are low in Lake Placid and in Wilmington because hotel owners like me pay a big amount in school taxes!!!

  11. steve says:

    I’m sorry but some of the promotional video links you posted send people to sites like freesledmap.com or GoDacks.com whose only apparent function is to allow people to sign up to receive printed materials or email updates. Maps sent via snail mail? Email updates? Seriously? This would have been a great idea in 1998, but now I would imagine most people just laugh, roll their eyes and move on.

    • We groom 750 miles of snowmobile trails in Hamilton County (when we have snow!) and I can vouch for the fact that we mail out thousands of snowmobile maps every year as a partner of freesledmap.com. (That is the landing page for our television spots.) Maybe people do all their research online, but they can’t print a large-scale map off a website. And e-newsletters are still effective in building customer loyalty. Repeat visits are less expensive to promote than new visits. The number of responses to Kim’s previous post and this story amaze me. Apparently everyone is a marketing expert.

  12. Ellen says:

    Very informative post, Kim. Thank you.

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