Valerie Knoblauch

Episode 24: Tourism Professionals as Lifestyle Developers, with Valerie Knoblauch

In this episode, you will learn about why collaboration makes such a huge difference at the county level from Valerie Knoblauch.

Valerie is President and CEO of the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection where she has worked since 1984 when she was hired as the organization’s first employee. In her role, she is responsible for guiding a team of tourism marketing professionals who are charged with promoting all of the fun experiences offered in Ontario County and the Finger Lakes region. Valerie thrives on the challenge of figuring out people’s motivations to travel and translating that into marketing programs that inspire travel to the destination where she lives, works and plays. Prior to beginning with the Finger Lakes Visitors connection, Valerie worked as a Tour Guide and Public Relations Manager for Gold Seal Vineyards in Hammondsport, NY after a career as a High School English teacher at Red Jacket Central High School.

Valerie loves to travel - imagine that. She also enjoys bicycling, wine, gardening, photography, and cooking. She loves the theatre, especially live theatre and musicals, and likes history – especially as it is interpreted to put into place “where we are today …”

Valerie is blessed with a very large family, many of whom have settled in the area. She has been married to her husband Kurt since 1982. They have three sons and three wonderfully diverse daughters-in-law and three grandsons. Valerie has friends across the world, because of her career in travel and tourism and because of her multicultural family. She loves learning every day from all of the characters in her life.

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Brittany Gibson

Episode 23: Get Locals Engaged in Tourism, with Brittany Gibson

In this episode, you will learn about how leveraging your social media in the tourism industry can help you to bring in more visitors from Brittany Gibson.

In her capacity at the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, Brittany is responsible for promoting Schuyler County’s tourism industry by creating and implementing tourism marketing and public relations programs. She is also responsible for developing and implementing programs to increase the visibility and credibility of the Chamber. Brittany serves on the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council Board of Directors, the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance Marketing Committee, the Schuyler County Planning Board, and the Community Development Corporation Board of Directors. She volunteers her time serving as the coordinator of her family's charity organization, Team Charlie.

Brittany’s areas of expertise include marketing, advertising, public relations, social media, and event planning. She is passionate about the Finger Lakes and is eager to see Schuyler County continue to grow - both in business and tourism.

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Ramjee Chandran

Episode 22: Content is King, with Ramjee Chandran

In this episode, you will learn from Ramjee Chandran about the evolution of tourism publishing, and why creative content is as important now as it was in 1989.

Ramjee Chandran is an entrepreneur, writer, publisher, and musician with 27 years of publishing experience. As a journalist, his articles have been published in India and other countries. Most of Chandran's publishing career involved magazines related to the tourism industry including city guides and business travel magazines - both print and online.

The first city guide he launched was on March 31, 1989, for his hometown of Bangalore, India. In the years following, he launched the "Explocity Guide" series of city guide magazines in several destinations including New York City, Dubai and several major metros in India. Other magazines included Executive Traveller and other city-based lifestyle magazines.

Ramjee Chandran received investment from a US-based venture capital fund in 2000, and a few years later, a meeting with publishing mogul Rupert Murdoch led to Murdoch picking up a 25% stake in Chandran's publishing enterprise, Explocity.

Chandran was awarded the prestigious "Chanakya Award" for Innovative Leadership by the Indian Council for Public Relations and was named one of 10 best entrepreneurs from the state of Karnataka, India by online giant, Rediff.com (REDF - NASDAQ).

Recently, Ramjee launched a website for New York State: www.DestinationsOfNewYorkState.com and runs this in an exclusive strategic alliance with the experienced tourism company, Destinations Of NYS, based in Saugerties, NY.

Chandran is also a jazz guitarist and has performed on stage with internationally acclaimed jazz musicians and at international jazz festivals. He believes that the one thing he does with more mediocrity than playing jazz is his other distraction, playing chess.

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Debbie Meritsky

Episode 21: Creating Experiential Opportunities, by Debbie Meritsky

In this episode, you will learn about the importance of creating opportunities for both guests and other small businesses from Debbie Meritsky.

Debbie is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute and has worked in the food industry for over 30 years with an emphasis on local, organic, and seasonal ingredients. Debbie is co-owner of the Black Sheep Inn & Spa located in Hammondsport in the Finger Lakes region of NYS. As the Inn chef, she is an avid proponent of sourcing local organic foods and the clean food movement in the Finger Lakes region. Debbie prepares delicious farm-to-table breakfasts for her guests, sourced from within 50 miles of the Black Sheep Inn & Spa. She also enjoys sharing with her guests those techniques on how to create this lifestyle at home, wherever they may live. Debbie’s other passion is art, and, specifically, creating art from recycled and repurposed "ingredients". Debbie and her husband Marc created the Arts in Bloom Art Trail to showcase the fantastic art being created in their area. In its 5th year Arts in Bloom is a family-friendly, free community event that features live demonstrations at artist studios and galleries on the trail.

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Jacob Taddy

Episode 20: How Activity & Collaboration Feed Off of Each Other, with Jacob Taddy

In this episode, you will learn about non-profits in the travel and tourism industry from Jacob Taddy.

Jacob Taddy is the founder and Executive Director of Onwards, a non-profit organization connecting people through unique travel experiences that empower local entrepreneurs. After working on service projects in the Navajo Nation, Skid Row in Los Angeles, and construction sites throughout the US and the Caribbean, Onwards was born when founder Jacob Taddy recognized a need to shift how he, and others, were talking about and providing domestic and international aid. Onwards seeks to shift from short-term solutions and volunteer projects to long-term, sustainable economic development. By providing microloans and business training to local tourism based business owners, Onwards empowers local entrepreneurs to tap into the largest industry on the planet, tourism, to create jobs and direct tourism dollars into communities that need it.

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Nicole Mahoney Solocast Episode #2

Episode 19: 10 Strategies for Successful Collaborations, with Nicole Mahoney

You have heard our guests talk about co-opetition- that really cool thing that happens when competitors come together to collaborate on a project or program in order to create something bigger than they could have done on their own. This podcast recaps ten strategies for successful collaborative partnerships that we have learned from our guests.

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Gavin Landry

Episode 18: Attracting Visitors to All of New York State, with Gavin Landry

In this episode, you will learn about how New York is consistently growing their tourism efforts from Gavin Landry.

Gavin Landry joined Empire State Development (ESD) as the Executive Director of Tourism in March of 2013. Mr. Landry’s appointment came at a time of continued tourism growth across New York State and amidst the launch of a series of new tourism initiatives by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Thanks to the support of Governor Cuomo, tourism has become the fourth largest employer in the State.

As Executive Director, Mr. Landry leads the iconic I LOVE NEW YORK marketing campaign, developing and implementing new initiatives to further the State’s positive tourism growth. Mr. Landry also works closely with the New York State Tourism Advisory Council, which provides input and advice regarding the state’s tourism efforts.

Before joining Empire State Development, Mr. Landry ran Landry Hospitality Consulting Services, where he provided full-service hospitality consulting to hotel developers and owners. Mr. Landry ran commercial hotels for a professional management company in markets such as Detroit, MI; Columbus, OH; Charlotte, NC, and Somerset, NJ. He has also served as president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, a post he held for 12 years. During that time, he served as the President of the NYS Association of CVB’s (2000-02). Gavin was the recipient of the 2016 Excellence in Leadership Award by the NYS Tourism Industry Association. A graduate of Cornell University, Mr. Landry served as an adjunct professor at New York University’s (NYU) Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management for five years where he taught graduate courses in various disciplines of the tourism industry. In February of 2013, Mr. Landry was the recipient of an award for teaching excellence from NYU, one of 20 given across nine teaching disciplines. Mr. Landry is a member of the Cornell Hotel Society.

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Mike Linehan

Episode 17: How to Work with the Media to Change Public Misconceptions, with Mike Linehan

This episode is a little different from most. We will be hearing from a tireless advocate and NYS tourism industry promoter, Mike Linehan. This interview was recorded in October 2016. Mike was gracious in volunteering to be one of Destination on the Left’s first interviews. He was very patient with me and my audio team as we were learning the ropes of podcast production.

Mike and I had a fantastic conversation and he shared many insights from his 30 years in the tourism industry. The audio from our interview however didn’t record properly and most of the interview was unusable. Mike was very kind when I explained what had happened and offered to reschedule so that we could get a good audio file. Unfortunately, our schedules did not align and Mike passed away unexpectedly on February 15, 2017.

Mike’s vision, his tenacity, his insights, his humor are part of the foundation of tourism in New York State. So, I went back to that bad recording and found 20 minutes of our conversation that I want to share with our listeners. We can all continue to learn and benefit from Mike Linehan.

Mike Linehan served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Yates County Chamber of Commerce for 24 years. Born in Hammondsport, NY, Mike settled in Penn Yan, NY after spending several years in the state of Colorado.

Mike’s formal training included courses of study at St. John Fisher College, Corning Community College, Finger Lakes Community College and the Institutes for Organization Management at the University of Oklahoma, where he was a graduating member of the Class of 1999.

Mike was a member of: the Keuka College Community Associates Board serving as Chair since 2000; NYS Tourism Industry Association where he served as past president; Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; Loyal Order of Moose; Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council where he served as Chair; Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association where he served as Chair and the Chamber Alliance of New York State.

In his spare time, Mike enjoyed cooking, gardening, and boating on the Finger Lakes. He lived in Penn Yan with his wife, Molly, daughters Meaghan and Morgen, and dogs Moses and Maggie.

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Kristy Kennedy

Episode 16: Every Traveler Makes A Difference, with Kristy Kennedy

In this episode, you will learn how every traveler makes a difference from Kristy Kennedy, Vice President of Marketing and The Director of Tourism for the Adirondack Coast Visitor Bureau (ACVB), a division of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

Kristy has been with the ACVB since 2008. In her current role, Kristy leads the Visitors Bureau’s efforts in developing and implementing a yearly strategic marketing plan to increase tourism in Clinton County.

A Plattsburgh native and a graduate of Plattsburgh State University, Kristy was named a Face of our Future by Strictly Business magazine and in 2008 Kristy was named New York State’s Virginia Allan Young Careerist in acknowledgment of her personal and professional accomplishments, writing ability and public speaking. She went on to place in the top 10 in the nation.

Before joining the Chamber, Kristy worked as Office Manager and Marketing Coordinator for Fesette Realty. Prior to that, Kristy held the role of Marketing & Promotions Coordinator for 95 Triple X and 620am WVMT Radio in Burlington.

Outside of her work at the Chamber, Kristy enjoys listening to live music, exploring the local food scene and creating one-of-a-kind dishes in her kitchen. She is a self-proclaimed Crazy Cat Lady and spends as much time with her better half Shannon and her family as possible including two full-of-life nephews.

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David Holder

Episode 15: How to Build a Destination’s Brand When You Don’t Have One Massive Asset, with David Holder

In this episode, you will learn about what can be done to build a destination’s brand from David Holder, President of Visit Syracuse.

David Holder did not grow up in Central New York, as you'll recognize from his slight southern drawl and love of cheese grits. He may not be a native but he is definitely one of the area's greatest cheerleaders. A love of the outdoors, weather (yes, you heard correctly), great food, and overall quality of life drive David's passion for the Syracuse area. He translates that love into a killer brand position for Visit Syracuse, one of six accredited DMOs in the state of New York, leading the effort to Do Your Thing and amplify awareness of Syracuse for convention planners, sporting event organizers and leisure visitors from around the world. Prior to joining Visit Syracuse, David directed the tourism and economic development efforts for the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia, led the Steuben County Conference and Visitors Bureau in Corning, New York and conducted community based strategic planning for the Texas Tourism Division. He earned both a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Science in Tourism Management from North Carolina State University.

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