Westchester County Tourism Receives Major Grant For Action Plan to Boost Post-Pandemic Tourism
Mary Prenon | May 15, 2023
WHITE PLAINS—The Westchester County Tourism & Film was recently awarded a $520,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, through the Economic Development Administration, as part of the American Rescue Plan. This EDA Tourism Recovery Action Plan will support the development of the Westchester County Tourism Recovery Plan with research, strategic planning and prioritization of initiatives and projects to assist the tourism sector in recovering from the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The hospitality and tourism sector has shown remarkable resilience during the past few years” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer. “This unprecedented project will guide us to take our economic recovery to a new level, bringing jobs and economic benefits to the entire region. When one attraction succeeds, we all succeed as a destination.”
Latimer launched the initiative at the “Guiding the Future of Tourism” forum held recently at the Westchester Marriott Hotel in Tarrytown. The event brought together tourism partners from hotels, arts and cultural attractions, transportation companies, chambers of commerce, and others.
Natasha Caputo, Director of Westchester County Tourism & Film, said Westchester County was among the few regions to receive its own grant. “The EDA usually issues grants to states, so this is very impressive for us,” she said. “It shows that Westchester and the Hudson Valley are true destination spots with a lot to offer.”
In addition to the many historic tourist sites like Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate in Tarrytown, Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s home in Irvington and Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah, the county offers some of the finest restaurants, shopping, waterfront nature trails and parkland in the New York metro area.
In 2019, prior to the onset of COVID-19, tourism had been a $2-billion industry in Westchester County. “But Westchester was first with a lot of closures during the pandemic,” explained Caputo. “Hotels, restaurants, and other indoor attractions were affected. With this grant, we can evaluate what has closed, what may be opening, what trends are taking place in the tourism sector, and what we can do to keep attracting visitors.”
Many hotels have reopened since then, but the Rye Town Hilton and Doral Arrowood remain closed. Caputo said while Westchester’s tourism industry is still strong, it’s lagging behind the pre-COVID days at $1.6 billion today. “Once we have a comprehensive review of our travel products, we can do a deep dive into our priorities and think about what we need for a full recovery,” she said.
Westchester County Tourism & Film will be also working with a team led by Hunden Strategic Partners, a full-service, national destination development advisory practice to support the post-pandemic redevelopment and revitalization needs of the region. “We are excited to work on this comprehensive tourism action plan to help boost tourism and support workforce development,” added Caputo. “I look forward to collaborating to gain sector insights that are essential to the plan’s success.”
Hunden Strategic Partners Founder, Rob Hunden noted that the recovery plan will include data-driven recommendations and action steps. “We are delighted to be working with Westchester County to reinvigorate its economy and grow it as a renewed tourism destination,” he said. “Our team has extensive experience evaluating the economic potential of tourism attractions and events as part of larger economic development goals.”
Hunden Strategic Partners is a leading real estate, tourism, and destination development consulting firm, with professionals in Chicago, San Diego, and Minneapolis. The firm offers a full range of tourism advisory, market and financial feasibility, economic and impact analyses, and other services for destinations. Its clients include cities, states, universities, and private developers.
The plan will include short, medium, and long-term actions and priorities recommended for recovery and growth of the tourism sector for maximum economic benefit in the region. The plans are expected to be completed by the end of September.