Make most of tourism summit
In politics the term summit has historically meant heads of state getting together in an attempt to ease international tensions, such as when President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev met in Vienna in 1961 at the height of the Cold War.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is using it differently, to describe meetings with business leaders aimed at boosting industries he wants to boost. Last year he held a summit for wine and beer, and another for yogurt, both of which resulted in some good ideas and new legislation. We hope tomorrow's summit in Albany on tourism will be equally successful.
Tourism is already a big industry in New York state, its fifth largest. In 2011, according to the governor's office, 200 million tourists spent nearly $54 billion, which supported 694,000 jobs, generated about $16 billion in wages and contributed nearly $7 billion in state and local taxes.
Much of the tourist activity is focused on New York City, with its theaters, nightlife, museums, famous buildings, Times Square, Central Park and other attractions. One purpose of Cuomo's summit is to find ways of luring more visitors upstate, a varied, scenic, historic area that has everything from Saratoga Battlefield to Finger Lakes wineries to the Erie Canal to the Adirondacks. Upstate is more dependent on tourism for jobs than is New York City.
We think the answer is marketing. Cuomo has shown an appreciation of this by including in this year's budget a $7 million appropriation for competitive funding of tourism marketing plans. But the I Love NY campaign also needs more attention. Although it was revived in 2008, and reworked to try to make people think of New York state (not just New York City) as a travel destination, it has never regained the novelty and excitement of the original in the 1970s. A renewed effort is needed to get international tourists to visit upstate, as well as those living in neighboring states.
What the state doesn't need is what Cuomo is expected to be pushing at tomorrow's summit: his plan for seven non-Indian casinos in the state, the first three of them upstate. Besides the social costs that come with casinos -- crime, prostitution, gambling addictions, etc. -- the revenues almost always fall well short of what was projected. That's even more true these days, with competition from Indian casinos in New York state, casinos in other states and other forms of gambling. There are only so many dollars to go around, especially with many people changing their spending habits as a result of the recession.
Casinos may seem like easy money, but looks can be deceiving. New York state should find other ways to promote tourism .