Elected officials met with members of the East End Tourism Alliance Tuesday to discuss a hefty new grant awarded to the East End to promote tourism in the area.
The Market NY $335,000 grant, an Empire State Development grant through the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, which Janine Nebons, of EETA and general manager of Tanger Outlets, and Bryan DeLuca, director of the EETA and general manager of the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, applied for, along with Steve Bate of the Long Island Wine Council.
The grant is to be divided between the North and South Forks
The funding needs to be spent before Dec. 31, Joan Bishoff of the North Fork Promotion Council said.
To that end, the "Taste North Fork" promotion was born, beginning in September and running through December.
The centerpiece of the promotion will take place on Veterans Day weekend, when a huge event will be held on the North Fork, to introduce people from New York City and other areas who might not know the area, to the wineries, farms beaches, golfing and other events that come alive after Labor Day.
A similar event will be held on the South Fork on October 12 - 14.
Another goal is to make it easy for visitors to reach the North Fork. To that end, the Hampton Jitney is working to provide free bus routes for the November Shuttle weekend, which will run in two loops, from Riverhead to Love Lane in Mattituck, and from Mattituck to Greenport.
In addition, said Nebons, the Long Island Rail Road has agreed to extend its service to Greenport through Veterans Day weekend, to help bring guests to the North Fork.
But while the grant has provided money for the ad campaign the EETA has created, business owners and chambers of commerce are still needed to create events and promotions that will attract visitors.
"The more you do yourself to showcase your shopping streets, farms, restaurants and wineries, the more you will all benefit," DeLuca said.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, Greenport Village Mayor David Nyce and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter attended the meeting, as did Southold Town Councilman Bill Ruland.
"The reason for the grant is to promote agritourism throughout the shoulder season," DeLuca said.
The three main tenets that helped the East End win the grant were that the monies needed to be used for an event that would be "transformative," and promote agritourism, during the off season.
"The transformational angle is the transportation," DeLuca said.
Andrew Lynch, vice president of Hampton Jitney, was onhand to discuss the bus loops.
The actual bus stops are still being determined.
Bishoff said Greenport "has stepped up to the plate" but still needs tents for Mitchell Park and manpower to open both a tourist booth and the red schoolhouse.
Across the entire North and South Forks, the theme of "Taste the East End," meant to tie in with New York State’s I ♥ NY campaign, will highlight events in all the five towns through December.
The campaign includes new fall television spots, print, social media, digital, Long Island Railroad billboards, New York City street teams and television billboard advertising.
The new fall television spot, produced locally by 91East Productions, was designed to promote the region’s shoulder season and will air in the New York metro market for 10 weeks.
“We are excited to be the lead agency in this regional collaboration,” DeLuca said. “Everyone is working together to extend the East End’s tourism season by driving traffic to one website. Efforts such as this keep jobs active through the off-season, promoting the rich agricultural heritage as well as the growing hospitality industry in the area.”
DeLuca said some businesses have signed on for five-second tags at the ends of the 30-second TV commercial spots.
"The whole premise is to get people to come in the off season," he said.
TripAdvisor was even targeted to feature East End events, he said; social media has also been utilized.
The entire campaign, DeLuca said, is multi-channel and everything points people back to the website, which features a fall guide and map.
"The beauty of this thing is that unites both Forks all the way up to Shellabration in Greenport in December," DeLuca said.
DeLuca mentioned another initiative that the EETA is setting up at MacArthur Airport, a section to sell East End products, including Long Island wines, lavender, chips, and tea; monitors will promote digital ads for East End events, beaches, golf courses, restaurants, and destinations, too.
"We need people to give importance to this event," Bishoff said. "We want the enthusiasm Janine and Bryan have brought to this. This is the biggest achievement in tourism grants — now we need to do something, to make it a big success so that it reoccurs next year and the year after."
The Veterans Day event, he said, will bring sustainable tourism to the East End during a time when businesses are typically slow.
"This is an opportunity for the little guys to step up to the plate."
Another benefit to the event, Bishoff said, is that each Jitney bus, which holds 56 people, takes 30 cars off the road.
Members of the business community came with questions, some asking what events could be featured, since there was only a month and half to plan.
DeLuca reminded the campaign runs through December and said many events are already happening on Veterans Day weekend.
Bishoff said the fact that the North and South Forks had been awarded the grant made the region "powerful" and could open the door to future grant funding.
Now, he said, local businesses need to get creative and come up with events guaranteed to wow. Another suggestion was that businesses stay open later on Veterans Day weekend. "We need every business owner," he said. "Keep your shops open later, for the event. They'll look for you next year."
One suggestion was that the Jitney run until 10 p.m. so visitors could eat at local restaurants; the event will run on Saturday and Sunday to give guests the chance to stay over at B & Bs.
"If you build it, they will come," Bishoff said.