Upstate New York Wants to Be a Destination Too

January 28, 2014 Updated: January 28, 2014

NEW YORK—Upstate New York is often ignored by New York City residents and global travelers alike. The New York State Tourism Advisory Council is trying to change that.

“Much like the way that you think of Italy, you don’t just think of Rome. When you think of New York, we want you to think of all of New York State, and all of the assets throughout the state,” said Gavin Landry, executive director of Tourism for Empire State Development, at a Tourism Advisory Council meeting Monday.

Despite dozens of major tourist activities every season, upstate New York faces two big challenges in growing tourism. One is access; much of New York State is far way from New York City, and inaccessible by public transit. The other is lack of awareness; Landry said most people have an outdated perception of New York state, and don’t realize how much there is up there nowadays.

For example, Saranac Lake, less than five-hours drive from Manhattan, has an annual winter carnival that National Geographic Traveler magazine named the No. 2 winter carnival in the world. (It runs from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9 this year.) Upstate winter tourist activities include skiing, snowmobiling, wine tasting, and theater.

Subway car ads with the tagline “Get Outta Town,” is meant to remind city folks that there’s a nonurban world out there, some of which they can get to on MTA.

“To have that on a subway car is really an idea to get you to be aware and then go travel there and see it,” said Landry.

In May 2013, Gov. Cuomo announced a $60 million investment in tourism, a portion of which goes to these subway ads, as well as TV spots.

It seems to have paid off. On Monday, Empire State Development Chairwoman Cristyne Nicholas said tourism in 2013 brought in a projected $7.7 billion across New York state.

One in every 12 New York state residents are employed in tourism-related jobs, Nicholas said, with more jobs in this sector now than ever before in state history.

Matt Gnaizda is a special correspondent in New York.