BY KATHY KAHN
Rocklanders, let’s face it, the county has been a blip on the GPS of travelers as they bypass the county for other Hudson Valley attractions. The only consistent exception to this rule is those who are attracted to the Palisades Center Mall.
Although Rockland has had a tourism director for many years, little new tourism business had been coming our way. Most of those who crossed the Tappan Zee didn’t have clue about how much New York’s smallest county had to offer—until now.
Executive Ed Day’s administration went out and found Lucy Redzeposki to take over as director and many are already calling her an answered prayer. With a truckload of connections in Westchester and New York City and a vivacious personality—as well as the energy of a dozen people–she was ready to tackle bringing home some tourism cash to the county as soon as she entered the door.
For naysayers who think tourism is no big deal, think again: in 2014 (2015 numbers are not available yet), New York earned $62.5 billion in income (both from hotel bed taxes, fees and other revenue streams), $100 billion in sales and created 748,000 hospitality jobs. Rockland has been missing the boat.
“It’s fine that Rockland thinks of itself as a ‘bedroom’ community, but those bedrooms are costing a lot more money because no one is coming to visit all the great attractions we have here. We can’t take in tourism dollars if we aren’t on the radar…and Rockland has a lot to offer visitors,” Redzeposki explained.
“We have walkable towns with specialty stores, great historic sites and we are right on the Hudson. We’ve got two great shopping centers and hundreds of great restaurants. We haven’t taken advantage of our position of ‘Gateway to the Hudson Valley,’ because once you cross the Tappan Zee, you start right out in Nyack, which offers visitors a view of America’s largest construction project….and there’s so much more to see and do. But how can we bring those dollars into our hotels, restaurants and stores unless we let people know we’re here?”
Redzeposki found out just how much of an unknown Rockland was when she drove to Kingston to the annual Hudson Valley Tourism meeting. “We’ve been paid members for years, but when I told the group I was from Rockland, they looked shocked. No one from Rockland had ever come to a single meeting.”
To show Chinese tour agents just what Rockland had to offer, Redzeposki booked a bus and brought 30 Queens-based travel agents to Rockland, stopping at the HNA Palisades Premier Conference Center. (Formerly the IBM Dolce Center, now owned by Beijing-based Crescent Hotels & Properties.)
“We toured Nyack, the Palisades Mall and our new Shoppes at Nanuet. They had the opportunity to experience Rockland hospitality and enjoy the amenities the HNA offered, right down to the tea and slippers waiting for their arrival and a menu that was appetizing and appealing. These tour operators saw Rockland for the first time and were very impressed—what an enthusiastic response we received as they were ready to return to the city,” Redzeposki said.
“There’s no reason these Asian visitors can’t come stay in Rockland and take a bus to Woodbury Common—as long as they come back and stay with us when they are done shopping…and they can shop and eat here too, as well as enjoy our beautiful Hudson River views.”
The county now has a formidable tempter, www.explorerocklandny.com, which shows off the county’s historic sites, shopping centers, hotels and river towns—all within distance of other tourist sites, including Woodbury Common and West Point.
The Legislature has also bought into Redzeposki’s vision and allotted nearly $300,000 in the 2016-2017 budget to put the county on the tourism map and bring some of that money into the county’s coffers. “I love Lucy!” said Al Samuels, who introduced her to RBA members at their monthly luncheon at the Paramount Country Club last week. “She is so full of energy and passion for making Rockland a destination, I can’t believe she isn’t going to make this happen and make it even better than we hope for!”
In the meantime, Redzeposki wants five “signature” events to put Rockland on visitors’ “must see list.” There’s already the two-day Rockland-Bergen Music Festival, the annual Supercross race at Anthony Wayne Recreation Area in Bear Mountain State Park, and the revitalization of Rockland’s Ice Festival, under the direction of Tim Englert. “Now, we need two more,” Redzeposki told her audience of over 150 business owners. “I know we can make this happen with your help.”
Ideas are always welcome. Contact Rockland’s new director of Economic Growth and Tourism at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas on how to create a signature event Rockland can make an annual event that can lure out-of-towners to the county.