Proctors marketed Schenectady County for 4 years before casino opening
Proctors – as both an entertainment venue and historic theatre – is obviously a tourism destination in the Capital Region. But there was a period it was also an official tourism agent for the region.
The role lasted exactly four years. It began when Schenectady dedicated a new Heritage Area Visitors Center at Proctors in early January 2012. It was announced at the ribbon cutting that the Schenectady County Legislature designated Proctors as Schenectady County’s Tourism Promotion Agency (TPA).
As the County’s TPA, the Legislature authorized Proctors to apply for funding through the I Love NY matching grant program to promote tourism in Schenectady County.
“We are proud to designate Proctors as the TPA for Schenectady County and excited for the opening of the Visitor Center,” said Judy Dagostino, chair of the Schenectady County Legislature at the time.
In addition to I Love NY financial support, the TPA – formally named the Schenectady County Convention & Visitors Bureau (SCCVB), although the marketing brand was called Visit Schenectady – received support and funding from Schenectady’s Metroplex for their convention sales efforts, as well as from Empire State Development. The SCCVB also received a Market New York grant of $60,000 for 2016 for promotional efforts, and Proctors contributed in-kind services worth as much as $100,000 annually during this period.
Over the next four years, Proctors’ role – and success – in tourism promotion grew steadily over time. Some of the highlights during that time:
- Establishment of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Web presences. By the end of 2016, the Visit Schenectady Facebook page was reaching over 100,000 people per month.
- The SCCVB video – Let Schenectady County Surprise You – was released in March 2015 on Facebook, Vimeo and YouTube channels.
- Proctors served as the marketing agency of the Capital-Saratoga Tourism Region, a six-county organization, of which the SCCVB was also a member.
- The SCCVB tourism and convention manager Talia Cass served as a boardmember of the New York State Tourism Industry Association.
- The anticipated 2017 opening of Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor spurred greater interest in Schenectady County among convention and meeting planners. The TPA created quarterly familiarization (FAM) tours in late 2015, inviting representatives of trade organizations and tour planners from across the state and Northeast to Schenectady for site tours and presentations. Upwards of 30 attended some of the tours; and as a result, Schenectady was invited to bid on regional and state conventions to be held in 2018 and beyond. In addition, the SCCVB regularly hosted one-on-one tours for meeting planners.
- In conjunction with the FAM tours, the staff created the first edition of Meet Schenectady, a glossy magazine for meeting planners detailing both county hotel and meeting facilities, in early 2016. An expanded 24-page second edition was published that October.
- The SCCVB published the first edition of Explore Schenectady County, a 48-page glossy magazine about places to go and things to do throughout the county, in September 2016. 50,000 copies of the Fall-Winter 2016-17 edition were distributed in the Berkshires, Catskills, Capital District, and Utica-Rome regions, as well as at Schenectady County hotels and destinations.
- The SCCVB was active throughout its tenure in a number of downtown Schenectady and county events, supplying manpower, marketing support, and donations of goods and services to the annual Wing Walk, SummerNight, and Schenectady County Chili Chowdown, among others.
Interest in Schenectady County as a convention destination started to really heat up in the second half of 2016 according to Proctors Agency Marketing Director Jim Murphy, who also served as the SCCVB director.
“Up to that point there were too few hotels in the county and they were not competitively priced for conventions,” Murphy said. “As the casino opening approached more and more hotels went under construction, and the dynamic started to change. Nearly everybody who we brought to Schenectady saw the potential and was eager for us to bid on hosting their events.”
In the fall of 2016 the county legislature began looking to create a new, independent organization with a similar name and mission, overseen by a 15-member board. An announcement also indicated funding would be much greater in anticipation of greater bed tax monies from the Rivers Casino opening. The county allocation of $392,000 for 2017 was several times the 2016 budget.
County Legislator Gary Hughes said In an October 2016 interview with the Daily Gazette, ͞Prior to the casino and hotels, I thought Proctors made a lot of sense.͟” But he indicated that he felt it was appropriate the county legislature take a greater role in light of Mohawk Harbor development.
Proctors role managing the SCCVB ended Dec. 31, 2016.