Hauppauge, NY - November 20, 2013 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and the East End Tourism Alliance are pleased to announce the completion of a very successful “Taste North Fork” tourism initiative that drove an unprecedented amount of tourism traffic and spending over Veterans Day Weekend to Suffolk County’s “Wine Country” on the North Fork between Riverhead and Orient Point.
Following on the heels of the successful Columbus Day Weekend on the South Fork, which also offered free shuttle service, the East End Tourism Alliance was able to offer free shuttle service along the North Fork to locals and visitors as part of a $335,000 Empire State development grant.
According to the Hampton Jitney, over 1,000 individuals utilized the free shuttle service over the course of the three-day weekend. The shuttle service linked Riverhead to Greenport with an additional connection to Orient Point to accommodate ferry riders from Connecticut.
The Long Island Rail Road extended its Greenport service through Thanksgiving and during the Veterans Day weekend over 1,000 visitors from Brooklyn, Manhattan, and New Jersey connected from the LIRR to the shuttle service in Mattituck.
Most hotels and Bed & Breakfast lodgings near shuttle stops reported full bookings over the three day weekend. The Tanger Outlet Center in Riverhead had extensive traffic and sales reflecting increased weekend visitor traffic from throughout the metropolitan area as well as Coastal Connecticut and Massachusetts. Travel destinations such as The Long Island Aquarium reported double digit percentage increases. Individual vineyards near shuttle stops experienced the largest increase in visitor traffic, with some of the more successful vineyards seeing 70-100 additional visitors over Veterans Day Weekend in 2011. 2011 is considered to be a better basis of comparison since visitation was noticeable affected by the economic aftereffects of Super Storm Sandy the previous year. Nearly every winery said their sales were higher than Veterans Day Weekend in 2011, with one vineyard reporting sales increases of up to 80%.
“This is precisely what well-designed economic development is meant to accomplish – to drive increased economic activity in ways that benefit and engage an entire community, said County Executive Bellone. “I would like to once again thank Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development for recognizing the importance of tourism to Suffolk County’s North Fork. I would also like to thank our partners at the East End Tourism Alliance for helping to pull off such an ambitious project which helps demonstrate a need for a long-term transportation solution.”
“We couldn’t be more pleased to see the growing success of the “Taste North Fork” campaign and would like to congratulate the East End Alliance, who was awarded an Empire State Development Market NY grant, and has done a great job contributing to our continued efforts to promote all that New York State has to offer,” stated Gavin Landry, Executive Director Executive Director of the NYS Division of Tourism.
Added Bryan DeLuca, President of the East End Tourism Alliance and Executive Director of the Hyatt East End and Long Island Aquarium, “The mission of the East End Tourism Alliance is to promote Suffolk County’s five East End towns. Our marketing strategy, along with the coordinated efforts of key board members and our marketing committee members, has clearly demonstrated, with reasonable funding, we can drive tourism traffic to our region resulting in a tremendous Return On Investment (ROI) and economic multiplier for all businesses large and small.”
Janine Nebons, VP East End Tourism Alliance and General Manager of Tanger Outlets Riverhead said, “Since beginning the Taste East End campaign in early September, most towns, villages and hamlets are reporting significant increases in traffic, occupancy and sales. The inaugural "Taste North Fork" transformative collaboration and transportation program yielded over 1,053 visitors that utilized the free transport program that included the LIRR, Cross Sound Ferry, and the Hampton Jitney. Next year, we hope to add "air" to those that traveled by land and sea, with the recent opening of the EastEndGetaway store at Long Island's Islip/MacArthur airport.”
Steve Bate, Executive Director of the Long Island Wine Council added, “We are so grateful to I Love NY and the East End Tourism Alliance for providing the resources to test a free North Fork shuttle service in our wine region. And as always, we certainly appreciate the continuing support of the County Executive and his team on this project and many others that impact agriculture and the broader local economy. The shuttle concept is something we’ve wanted to try for a long time. This weekend’s experience showed that it could easily become a viable, regular service with important benefits for our businesses, our infrastructure and our environment.”