SCHENECTADY — The founding executive director of the Discover Schenectady tourism promotion agency is leaving, and the search has begun for a new executive director.
Becky Daniels, who was named the agency’s first executive director in 2017 as Schenectady County began an organized effort to promote Rivers Casino & Resort and other destinations in the county, will be leaving later this spring for a new position that she hasn’t yet publicly revealed.
“Becky has been a tremendous asset to Discover Schenectady,” said County Legislator Jeff McDonald, president of Discover Schenectady. “In partnership with the board, Schenectady County and our stakeholders, Becky and her team initiated some great programs and put Discover Schenectady on the map.”
Daniels has headed a staff of three or four, working from a small office just off Broadway in downtown Schenectady. From there, she has given Discover Schenectady a significant new social media presence, with a website that emphasizes fun things to do, local dining and food options, and the variety of things there are to do, not just in Schenectady, but in the surrounding communities. She launched the county’s first Hotel Week, an Ale and Trail passport program, and was an energetic presence at community events like Schenectady Summer Night.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has closed the casino and most visitor-oriented businesses, from restaurants that are limited to take-out only to closed shops — and large-crowd events like Summer Night concerts are unlikely to be allowed this summer. How quickly the tourism economy will be permitted to restart is one of the major unknowns, with decisions about regional reopenings being handled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He has said that safety is his first priority.
“The last two months have shown that the world would change is inevitable, and so we are looking at this transition as an opportunity to find the next leader who will continue the great work we’ve accomplished over the last three years,” McDonald said.
McDonald noted that tourism spending in the county increased 10.5 percent in 2018, the last year for which figures are available, and that hotel occupancy tax revenue was rising steadily until the pandemic shutdown, which started in mid-March. Discover Schenectady is a separate non-profit organization, but the board is appointed by the County Legislature and the annual funding — just under $500,000 — comes from the room occupancy tax.
“I am proud of what we’ve accomplished at Discover Schenectady in my three years here,” Daniels said in a prepared statement.
A Schenectady native and Syracuse University graduate, Daniels worked in marketing at Albany Medical Center and General Electric before taking the Discover Schenectady position in 2017.
A committee of the Discover Schenectady board will lead the search for Daniels’ replacement. Interested candidates can send a resume and cover letter to Kristina Ranalli at Discover Schenectady by May 8.
There is no defined salary for the position, but candidates are asked to have at least five years of tourism/convention bureau experience, of which two years should have been in a leadership and management role.