Tourism Bureau Unveils New Website

Report says visitor spending rose 6 percent

By Holly Crocco

The nonprofit Putnam County Visitors Bureau has redesigned its website, a move that was well received by legislators during the Sept. 14 Economic Development Committee meeting.

The updated site, at visitputnam.org, includes a calendar of events and links to restaurants, hotels, museums, art studios, landmarks, performance venues, retail shops and outdoor attractions.

Businesses who are not included can submit a narrative, photos and video for the site to [email protected], said Tourism Director Bruce Conklin.

The site also includes a 30-second commercial that airs outside the county, as well as information about the Putnam County Television and Film Commission and links to the bureau’s sites at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

The homepage of the newly redesigned Putnam tourism website.

“The previous website did not allow for the dynamic nature of the tourism industry,” Conklin said. He added that the material posted so far “is a small fraction of what can be done to highlight the great aspects of Putnam.”

The county contracted with Saffire, a design company based in Austin, Texas, that responded to a request for proposals earlier this year. (Conklin did not reply to an email asking about the cost of the redesign.)

The bureau is also working to update its printed visitors’ packet. Conklin has contracted with a photography service which is taking shots around the county. He said he also has plans to beef up digital advertising and promotion.

Conklin noted that the county saw a 6 percent increase in tourism spending in 2016, according to a report by Tourism Economics. From 2014 to 2015, the increase was 3.1 percent.

Bill Gouldman (R-Putnam Valley) called that “great news” but noted that many people come to Putnam to enjoy the outdoors, such as hiking Breakneck, which doesn’t necessarily translate to spending money.

“You have different levels,” Conklin replied. “Anyone who comes across the county line and spends $1” provides $1 more than was here, he said. “Six percent is a significant jump. We broke the $16 million mark.”

The report calculated that the increase translated into more than 100 new jobs in tourism-related fields and an estimated savings per household of $228 due to sales tax revenue collected from visitors.

“We are very proud of the job you have done,” Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson) told Conklin. The website “is a terrific, terrific resource.”

Barbara Scuccimarra (R-Philipstown) also praised the bureau and its seven-member volunteer board. “They’re amazing,” she said. “Each one of them brings so much to the table.”

“I’m very happy that I came into a professional board that offers me so many different resources,” Conklin said.

The mood was far less tense than at a meeting of the committee in March, when board chair Barney Molloy insisted the bureau answered only to County Executive MaryEllen Odell, not the legislature, and Acting Director Frank Smith refused to answer questions about its finances “under the advice of counsel.”

Although its annual budget of about $250,000 is funded entirely by county and state grants, the Visitors’ Bureau has claimed it is not a county agency and therefore not subject to Freedom of Information Law disclosure requests about its finances. However, Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, said on Aug. 23 a deputy county attorney told him the county had decided the bureau is an agency subject to FOIL. The law department has not responded to requests from Freeman or The Current for a written ruling.

4 thoughts on “Tourism Bureau Unveils New Website

  1. While I am always glad to see an article that gives insight into the arcane workings of our County government (hat tip to Ms. Crocco), I sometimes wonder if the health risks that are associated with reading said article — i.e., feeling like my head is going to explode — are worth it.

    Before I start analyzing the misstatements, phony or questionable information and just plain BS that was mentioned as coming from the mouths of the Legislators and Mr. Conklin, please know that I base my opinions on many years experience dealing with this crew, particularly regarding tourism and the Village of Cold Spring, which just happens to be Putnam’s only real tourist attraction that actually brings in thousands of visitors every month.

    Naturally, the first thing I did was to check to see if the Visitors’ Bureau had included my Side Effects shop on the website. Of course it wasn’t listed, pretty much as I expected. So I called the office to let Mr. Conklin know about the oversight and that I had filled in the online form with my information so that he could post it. I asked when I could expect to see it on the site, to which he replied that since he was the only employee he wasn’t sure when he would have the time to do so. I asked if it would be a few days? A week? A month? Before Christmas? He replied he could safely say before Christmas.

    No matter that any good webmaster would be able to post such simple information in a matter of hours at the outside — how is it even remotely acceptable for a county employee to say it will take over two months to list a taxpayer’s business on a website that I helped pay for??

    Of course, when you have Legislators Nacerino and Scuccimarra gushing their praise of this latest fiasco, you realize that not one of these people has any idea about e-commerce, websites, tourism, advertising or promotion. How else to explain their enthusiasm for a website that has so many deficiencies, omissions and outright mistakes that would normally cause a client to ask for a refund?

    Another question: We do have some very competent web designers here in Putnam County. Remember how we’re all supposed to “Shop Putnam”? So I’d like to know why Conklin decided to hire an out-of-state company to do the site when we have local taxpayers who could really use the business.

    Anyway, here are just a few things I noticed that need to be corrected in addition to adding my shop to the listings:

    * In the Events category, there are three or four listings from now through Oct. 10. If Mr. Conklin had bothered to bestir himself and take a look at the daily Calendar listed in The Current, he could have filled the category with dozens of things to do in our area alone.

    * Putnam Valley’s wonderful Tompkins Corners Cultural Center was not listed in Arts, Culture or Music.

    * C&E Hardware, one the best go-to stores on Main Street, wasn’t listed in any category under “Shopping” although Fraser Brothers in Mahopac was listed.

    * Neither Chickadee nor Vintage Violet, two Main Street shops, were listed under “Shopping” or Antiques, while the former Dew Drop Inn Antique Center, which has been closed for some time, was listed.

    * I did not see any listing for one of Cold Spring’s best new stores, Meraki, the Greek gift shop and emporium that has become one of our most popular destinations for shoppers from all over.

    Additionally, the numbers regarding tourism growth are wrong. According to the Tourism Economics publication he cited, the growth in New York was 2.7 percent.

    There’s more, but why bother to keep going when there is zero chance that anyone from the Legislature or the tourism agency is going to read this post, let alone take the time to make the corrections?

    One other thing: the issue of whether the Visitors’ Bureau is subject to Freedom of Information Law requests was decided last year (if memory serves) when I appealed to the County Law Department after several of my FOIL requests were denied by Conklin’s predecessor, Frank Smith, who, despite being a law student, didn’t seem to know the difference between FOIL and Saran Wrap.

    And the beat goes on….

  2. The other store not mentioned was The Country Goose – only been in business for 32 years.

    • It might be hard to find it, but you are listed under Things to Do/Shopping/Home and Hearth.

      Because there are no back links to your website or any other info about your wonderful shop and baskets, you might want to click on the listing and update with some good copy and photos. When you fill in the form you can include the pictures and whatever else you can fit, then hit the “submit” button and hope that Mr. Conklin can find it in his heart to post it before the holidays.

  3. While I was glad to see one response to this article, I really wish that the Merchants of Main Street would rise up and begin to engage in some old fashioned political activism when it comes to our mistreatment by our so-called “public servants” in Carmel.

    As someone who’s been a taxpayer advocate for decades, I find it disheartening that there is not more outrage among the business owners who are personally paying so much of their own money to have a Putnam County business, with little or no reciprocity in terms of services received from the Legislature.

    If only they would bother to read all the information that’s been published right here in the last few years, maybe they would understand that paying taxes and fees is not supposed to be a one way street. The County has an obligation to all of us to provide us with services in lieu of sharing sales tax.