Those living in Western New York may have clear and well-defined boundaries for what they consider their home region. But outsiders are more likely to view the landscape as one piece.
That’s why plans by tourism officials from five counties to develop a brand that markets all of them, and even includes neighboring counties, make sense. In fact, it should have been done sooner.
The tourism plan is being funded with a $300,000 grant from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council. Tourism agencies from Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties are joining together to figure out how to market the entire region.
The collective regional push should produce results. Even better is the effort to pull in Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties. As John H. Percy Jr., president and CEO of Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., said, they’re part of the vacation region that includes Erie and Niagara counties even though they fall outside the boundaries of the regional council.
The tourism effort, while funded by the Western New York Council, will align more closely with the state’s existing boundaries for its 11 vacation regions under the “I Love New York” program.
The effort should get a boost with the activity taking place in and around these counties. In Erie County, cranes are everywhere at the waterfront and Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. There’s a continued focus on arts and culture with exciting music, plays and art. Niagara County is starting to benefit from spending at Niagara Falls State Park. The New York Times put Niagara Falls on the list of “52 Places to Go in 2014.”
Chautauqua Institution is a worldwide draw for its serene, intellectual campus setting, and beyond that the activities along the restful lakefront. Each of the counties boasts particular attractions to offer tourists. But getting the information to them ahead of time about what is not to be missed, even if it’s one or two counties over, is important.
The first step is to hire a firm to conduct a branding study, which organizers believe will take about 18 months. The results will produce a position statement about the destinations and common ground among the places in the region. The group will then hire an advertising agency to develop the approach for a public campaign.
This work is important because the results will be used to attract funding for the marketing effort. The grant from the economic council is just seed money. After the studies are produced the counties will have to sustain the push, which could include an ongoing effort to share tourism information that will give visitors reasons to stay longer.
As Percy said, “The visitor doesn’t care about county boundaries. They just care about their experience.”