Thurman Thomas, Buffalo Bills Hall-of-Fame running back (on Twitter), has been named to the state Tourism Advisory Council by Governor Cuomo. He is being recommended for the position of Vice Chair on the Council. I confess that I was not aware that there was such a council. But there is, eighteen members strong.
The members are appointed by the Governor with recommendations from the temporary president of the senate, the minority leader of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, and the minority leader of the assembly. The chairs of the senate and assembly committees on tourism, recreation and sports development are non-voting, ex-officio members of the council. There is no compensation to the council members who meet five times annually.
According to the regulations, the governor shall ensure that such members include representatives of organizations of tourism-related industries in the state including, but not limited to, travel and vacation businesses, convention bureaus, cultural institutions, theme parks and attractions, hotels and motels, restaurants, water-based recreation businesses, campgrounds, ski facilities, wineries, halls of fame, travel agents and transportation companies. Historic organizations are not separately designated as a tourism-related industry but perhaps are subsumed under cultural institutions. I presume this includes federal sites as well but that may be presumptuous of me.
What is it to do?
The purpose of the council is laid out in the law that created it: “The purposes of the council shall be to advise the commissioner concerning tourism and to serve as liaison between the state’s tourism-related industries and the commissioner with respect to the design and implementation of the state’s tourism policies and programs.”
How is it to achieve its purpose? “The Council has the power to identify, advise, assist, and recommend to the (Tourism) department, Governor, and legislature.”
Last March, Governor Cuomo appointed Cristyne Nicholas to serve as Chair of the New York State Tourism Advisory Council. An October 2012 press release from the Governor’s office included a statement about an outsider to be hired for the Tourist Department and now it’s happened.
A March 2013 press release cites “Cristyne’s expertise in strategic marketing and tourism promotion” and she “has already had a major impact in building New York City into the one of the world’s leading tourist destinations.” She is the co-founder and CEO of Nicholas & Lence Communications, a New York based strategic communications firm and previously had spent seven years as President and CEO of NYC & Company, New York City’s official tourism and marketing organization, overseeing record growth in tourism, hotel occupancy, airport arrivals and visitor spending. She created strategic marketing initiatives, produced major annual events such as Restaurant Week and the NYC Half Marathon, and formulated innovative partnerships with corporate leaders such as American Express, Coca-Cola, Merrill Lynch, Target and American, Delta and Continental Airlines. She was quite active after 9/11 in restoring New York City as a tourist destination. Nicholas served as Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s chief spokesperson and Director of Communications and lives in Westchester County. While her credentials are impressive there is nothing in the press release to indicate any interest in the history tourism and clearly she brings a New York City (Manhattan) perspective to her job.
One of the stated goals according to the press releases is to successfully re-brand New York to capture tourists who visit Mystic Seaport, the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and downtown Philadelphia (location of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, etc.) That shouldn’t be too hard. New York has a South Sea Seaport (which is presently bankrupt); Palatine Germans (Deutsch which became “Dutch”), as well as actual Dutch sites; American Revolution sites; plus those from the War of 1812. So perhaps it is reasonable to expect the re-branding effort to mention the New York counterparts to the successful tourist destinations mentioned outside the state in the press release.
I have some thoughts about the message that the history community needs to communicate to Cristyne Nicholas and the members of the Tourist Advisory Council which will be the subject of future posts. In the meantime, does anyone know who these members are and how to contact them?
In the meantime, there are some efforts in the history community to influence Albany or at least find out what is going on. MANY will be hosting a conference call with its members on February 6 with its lobbyist who is based in Albany. The Parks & Trails New York and the Alliance for New York State Parks are planning the 8th annual Park Advocacy Day on Wednesday, February 26 in Albany. The program will begin at the University Club in Albany, then move to the State Capitol and Legislative Office Buildings for face-to-face meetings.
Perhaps the history community needs to do something similar. Maybe MANY’s lobbyist could help organize it as part of its March 30-April 1 conference which will be in Albany. Wouldn’t that be a great time since the people will already be there to get the history people to meet with the legislators and tourist department (and, of course, the education people on the role of local history and civics in the Common Curriculum with the social studies teachers who will be meeting in Albany March 27-29)?
After all, if the history community doesn’t speak up for itself who will?