New Tourism Chief Briefs Legislature

Says report shows economic impact on rise

By Holly Crocco

The Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau plans to publish a visitor’s guide, distribute online commercials and revamp its website in an effort to attract more tourists, Executive Director Bruce Conklin told legislators on June 20 during a meeting of the Economic Development Committee.

He said a consultant’s report compiled for state officials found the economic impact of tourism in the Hudson Valley to have grown steadily between 2012 and 2015 (the most recent data available), including in Putnam County, particularly in the food and beverage, retail and recreation categories.

Bruce Conklin (file photo by H. Crocco)

“This is illustrative of the farm-to-table movement, the trend toward supporting local craftspeople, and the increased popularity of outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking and cycling,” said Conklin, a Putnam Valley native who was hired in March to succeed Libby Pataki. “These areas will be a point of focus in future advertising.”

The nonprofit visitors’ bureau is funded by $141,996 from the county and $60,000 from the state. Conklin earns $60,000 annually and former interim director Frank Smith earns $50,000, although it is not clear if he continues to be employed by the bureau with Conklin’s arrival. After claiming that  the organization is a not a county agency, Smith and Barney Molloy, who chairs the volunteer board of directors, declined in March to answer questions when a legislator asked for details about its finances.

Conklin told legislators that, based on the consultant’s report, the county tourism industry supports more than 1,000 jobs and saves each household an average of $214 in taxes each year because of sales taxes collected from visitors.

Advertisements placed by the bureau in regional publications such as Hudson Valley Magazine, Chronogram, Upstater and The Valley Table that direct visitors to tourputnam.org reach about 810,000 people, he said, and about three quarters of the people visiting the website are there for the first time.

The bureau is also targeting its ads to residents and visitors in New York City, and has hired a firm to place promotional cards in 10 kiosks in Manhattan for people “looking to escape the city for a day” on Metro-North. He noted that funding the tourism office receives from the state as part of its “I Love New York” campaign must be used on advertising outside of the county.

Conklin said the visitors’ bureau has produced a 30-second commercial to stream online and is working on seven 15-second clips to highlight activities in Putnam such as camping, kayaking, historical experiences and dining.

The printed visitors’ guide and the revamped website should be ready by Sept. 1, he said. His presentation is posted at tourputnam.org.


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5 thoughts on “New Tourism Chief Briefs Legislature

  1. It is about time that the shady corporate entity known as the Putnam Visitors’ Bureau is abolished and the county sets up its own tourism agency like Westchester and Dutchess. It is abundantly clear from this article and all the others that have appeared in The Current that the bureau is being mismanaged in every way possible and is a total waste of taxpayers’ money.

    As everyone knows (except the Visitors’ Bureau), the only real tourist attraction in Putnam County, the only place that attracts thousands of tourists every month, is the Village of Cold Spring. Conklin and Smith can try to hustle the eastern side of the county all they want, but the truth is hard to ignore — just walk down Main Street most weekends and see for yourself.

    I am amazed that neither Smith or Conklin is embarrassed by the Tour Putnam website which has been broken for the past six years or more. Every year at budget time we hear the same lies about how they’re going to use the money to fix the website, and every year it’s the same old same old. Under the section titled “Latest News” they still have events that took place in May. The Events Calendar has less than half of the items listed in The Current on a daily basis and never has any of the really interesting events that take place in Putnam Valley, Cold Spring, Philipstown or Garrison.

    As usual, western Putnam is treated like the forgotten stepchild of the county even though we bring in a huge portion of the sales tax that helps to fund the budget including the salaries. My biggest complaint, however, is that the Shopping tab does not feature photos and descriptions from Cold Spring’s dozens of magnificent shops. Instead there is a mish-mash of shop listings from all over the county, many of whom are not even in business anymore.

    They should ask the high school kids, who are all tech geniuses, to volunteer to redesign the website as a class project.

    Normally I don’t advocate a government entity as inept as our County Legislature taking on any additional duties; however, in the case of the Visitors’ Bureau, there is no way they could do a worse job than what we have now. If they were working similar jobs in the private sector, both Smith and Conklin would have been shown the door by now. Instead, they are part of the general malaise that prevails in public service, to wit: there is no reward for success nor punishment for failure.

  2. I’m glad Putnam Tourism is bringing back the Visitors’ Guide. However, if it is to be ready for distribution by Sept. 1, it seems that they would be approaching potential advertisers long before now. As a Philipstown business owner, I’ve not received any information regarding advertising space in the guide. Advertising in previous editions was a boon for our business and money well spent and I’d like to participate again, but there seems to be little interest in reaching out us in western Putnam.

    The Highlands Current has a beautiful Visitors’ Map and Guide created by local artist Cara Wood Ginder that would be a wonderful addition to the Putnam County Guide. I hope there can be a mutually beneficial collaboration between The Current and Putnam Tourism with some kind of distribution of this map, if only in digital form.

    • You are so right about the HC map and guide — it is the best of its kind that’s ever been done for Cold Spring. It is not cheap to produce and I think maybe you could suggest to the County people that they contribute to the cost of printing and distribution.

      The other points you brought up are valid. I don’t have much hope that we will see improvement any time soon.

      • Ideally any map of this kind ought to be updated to provide the most current information, locations, and hints for parking, as well as other transportation strategies and options such as car pooling, trains, buses, etc.