Discover Albany (N.Y.) Pushes Regional Collaboration for Success

In her new role as the president of Discover Albany, Jill Delaney is embracing the opportunity to see fresh ideas take root in a city. One idea taking hold in both her region and in the tourism industry is using technology to maximize marketing. More and more, technology is helping Discover Albany, its 330 partners and Albany County’s more than 4,000 daily visitors stay connected.

You’ve lived in the Hudson Valley of New York for most of your life. How has Albany and its surrounding area changed in your time there?

It’s certainly developed a lot as far as technology goes. We’ve had quite a boom of technology jobs, which has increased the number of people moving into the region for that purpose—a massive influx of people into the town I live in. The farms are now neighborhoods. We’ve seen quite a bit of that throughout the region.

How have you seen technology disrupt the role of tourism agencies?

I don’t think it has disrupted it, I think it’s really enhanced what we do. With technology we’re able to reach a broader audience without having to rely exclusively on print, because we really are a marketing organization. It’s all about reaching people to tell them why they should come see us.

Have you been using a lot of new technology at Discover Albany to reach visitors?

Yes, I would say we are; that’s probably true for all of the tourism promotion agencies. We’re constantly seeing new technology develop and be brought to us. I know that Discover Albany hasn’t particularly used it, but virtual reality, for example, is one of those areas that’s actually being used in tourism. The state is using it, which benefits all of the agencies in the state. For example, using drone technology to get footage of the entire city of Albany, we couldn’t have done that previously, it would have been way too cost prohibitive. Then, being able to take it and affordably get edited video turned around quickly, so if somebody says, “Hey, we’ve got a great opportunity, an ad became available, and we need someone to fill it at the last second,” we can very quickly pull together a 15-second ad. The production cost would’ve been insane even just a few years ago.

Tell me about how technology is impacting your membership.

We’re definitely not finding it harder to retain members, we actually have been growing our membership. I think we’re able to reach people easier, and those businesses that can benefit from what we do see is much more often because we are on social media. We’re using it to tag them and show that we’re engaged with them and bring their presence into what we do on a daily basis.

What kind of regional projects have you seen that have had a strong impact in drawing visitors?

I would say each region has been working a little bit more closely together, but also the state as a whole. Ways that we’ve done that is really looking at New York state as an attraction or looking at a particular region as an attraction and recognizing that visitors don’t see county lines. They come, and they want to do whatever they can do within their traveling distance, whatever their comfort level is. If they’re driving, they’re going to cross from Albany County to Saratoga County, or down into the Catskills, if that package is of interest to them. Collaborating, among the regions, has been a really big impact for us.

What are some upcoming projects Discover Albany is working on?

We’ve got quite a few things that we’ve been working on. I think that the downtown part of Albany is really starting to have kind of a renaissance, and what we’re hoping to see is the redevelopment and reinvigoration of some of the areas that had previously not been given a whole lot of attention. We are working with various agencies throughout Albany to come up with some great ideas to make the city more visitable and more livable.

Is the influx of technology jobs and new employees creating any kind of challenge with housing?

No. We actually had a population decline at one point decades ago, so now that it’s growing again and people have become a bit more mobile. There are a lot of people who can live in the city, there’s plenty of housing there, there’s plenty of new developments in Albany County. I think plenty of people moving into the area don’t really see an issue with driving 15 or 20 minutes to one of the outlying areas, even within Albany County. We have many suburbs. There are plenty of opportunities for people to find existing or new housing.

What advice do you have for other tourism agencies?

Being new to my role here, I’m honestly taking in more advice than I’m giving at this point. I think, just be open to new ideas and to collaborating. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing all of the answers and working with organizations that you may not have wanted to work with in the past. Together, you can be much stronger and more influential. So, collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.