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by Deanna Ting | January 30, 2015
At the recent New York Times Travel Show held in New York City from Jan. 23 to 25, I Love NY/Empire State Development had a very visible presence. An entire aisle of the trade show floor was taken up by the New York State economic development agency and its tourism partners from across the state of New York -- not just New York City.

This is just one of many efforts the agency is making to emphasize, both to consumers who attended the trade show and to travel and meetings industry trade members, that there's much more to New York than the city.

Gavin B. Landry, executive director of tourism, and Ross Levi, vice president of marketing initiatives, for I Love NY/Empire State Development, sat down with Incentive's sister publication Successful Meetings to tell us about their organization's initiative to bring more meeting and incentive groups to the entire Empire State.

"When a lot of people think of New York, they naturally think of New York City," said Levi. "And yes, New York City is the perfect place for some meetings, but other locations will be better for other groups based on accessibility, cost, and other factors. Each region of the state has its own assets in terms of things to see and things for groups to take advantage of."

Backed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's May 2014 announcement to launch a new NY Loves Groups initiative, I Love NY/Empire State Development is making a concerted effort to attract more groups to the state through trade shows and additional online information. The NY Loves Group initiative is just one facet of the state's $45-million commitment to promote statewide tourism and attract more visitors and groups.

"With the governor's support, we have a mandate to recognize the value of this segment," Landry said. "Forty percent of all rooms booked in the state are from group travel -- both business and leisure. With that initiative, we're building commitments and assessing assets throughout the state to prove and show that we can host any size group here. There's something for everyone in each of our 11 vacation and destination regions. Each has its own unique identities and assets."

Landry pointed out, for example, that New York City is one of three finalist cities for the upcoming 2016 Democratic National Convention, and that cities and regions including Syracuse, Lake Placid, Rochester, Albany, Buffalo, and Saratoga Springs are also attracting major meetings and conventions.

"In Saratoga Springs, they have a 50,000 square-foot convention center that is perfectly set up for regional and national meetings," Landry noted. "We hosted the Congressional Medal of Honor Society there recently."

Levi also pointed out that many cities in New York have dedicated airports, including Buffalo, Westchester, Albany, and Syracuse.

When it comes to venues, Landry and Levi also noted a few of New York's standout properties, including the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park; the George Eastman House in Rochester; the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in Jamestown; and The Sagamore in Bolton Landing.

"There's a misconception that the only four- or five-star restaurants and hotels end in Manhattan," said Levi.

Going forward into 2015, both Landry and Levi said that meeting and incentive planners can expect to see much more of I Love NY, and to hear more about all that the state has to offer, specifically to groups.

Said Landry, "Expect to see an even stronger presence from us in 2015."

Pictured above: The Oncenter in Syracuse