By Laura Schmidt ~Discover Long Island’s Second Annual Tourism Awards Gala welcomed tourism industry leaders and newcomers to celebrate another successful year and praise those who went above and beyond to push the industry forward.
At the Fox Hollow in Woodbury, Discover Long Island’s President and CEO Kristen Jarnagin, referred to as “our very own Long Island Superwoman,” welcomed a room full of tourism enthusiasts to look back at an economically successful year and present impactful organizations with awards such as Partner of the Year, Industry Advancement, Tourism Trailblazer and Tourism Legacy.
Before awards were presented, Jarnagin took time to acknowledge the positive impact tourism has on Long Island. In 2018, the tourism industry created 81,707 jobs, welcomed more than nine million visitors and generated $722,000,000 million in tax revenue while promoting the region and small businesses alike. Since Jarnagin joined the team, she has expanded the vision of tourism for Long Island to include the hidden treasure of Fire Island. Laura Mercogliano, Board member of Discover LI and co-owner of this publication, along with several other FI businesses, is excited to have a front row seat to see this relationship continue to grow.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Discover LI and with it came “a year filled with firsts,” according to Jarnagin, through groundbreaking partnerships and nationally recognized achievements, including winning Best Branding and Innovative Marketing Campaign in the country from U.S. Travel Association, which Jarnagin said is “like the Oscar’s of the travel industry.”
Before the ceremony kicked off, Nassau County Executive Laura Curren and Suffolk County Chief of Staff Lisa Black, who stepped in for Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone, exchanged in some light-hearted banter about the wonderful destinations each county has to offer.
News 12 reporter and anchor Elisa DiStefano announced each award beginning with the Industry Advancement Award that was presented to the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program at St. Joseph’s College. Accepting the award was Instructor of Hospitality and Tourism Management Tina Ferro.
“We educate to advance our knowledge but no advancement can be maintained without hard work so I thank my colleagues,” Ferro said. “Our program has grown from the collaborative effort provided by all the organizations and industry professionals that are actually in this room tonight.”
Ferro went on to thank Jarnagin and her team at Discover LI for the education, mentorship and guidance to continue the program.
Partner of the Year Award went to Long Island MacArthur Airport for its collaboration with Discover LI in creating Short Flight Long Island, which provides convenient, non-stop flights from MacArthur to Baltimore, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta and more cities.
Accepting the award was Airport Commissioner Shelby LaRose-Arken, Deputy Commissioner and Director of Operations Rob Schneider and Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter.
LaRose-Arkin emphasized the importance of partnership in the industry and gave thanks to the efforts made by Discover LI to combine strategies and ideas to create a harmonious collaboration and campaign to further promote Long Island.
“It seems so fitting that the award the airport has received is the Partner Award because the only way we’re going to advance this region is to do it in partnership,” Carpenter said.
The Tourism Trailblazer Award was given to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for its recent renovations that created opportunities for growth in the tourism community. The reopening of Long Island’s 14,500-seat coliseum has brought a resurgence to Nassau County. The Coliseum hosts world-class entertainment through musical performances from Paul McCartney to Bruno Mars to choreographed shows on ice. It was also a catalyst to bringing the New York Islanders back home for 21 regular season games.
The evening concluded with the Tourism Legacy Award presented to former Newsday travel guide producer, writer, editor and photographer Robert Lipper for his dedication to Long Island tourism over the last 30 years. Lipper has published many tourism and business economic development magazines and guides about the Nassau and Suffolk region including the LI Travel Guide. Now retired, Lipper is a knowledgeable tour guide and each summer is a tourism ambassador at the Taste NY Long Island Welcome Center where he interacts with visitors and helps make suggestions of places to go and things to see on the island.
A video made by close friends and colleagues painted Lipper as a dedicated, passionate, detail-oriented man with a deep love for all things Long Island. Deemed a “walking encyclopedia” in the video more than once, Lipper remained humble in his acceptance speech, thanking all those who helped him along the way.
“I created a bunch of guides including the travel guide but it’s a team effort,” Lipper said. “I didn’t do it alone.”
Lipper went on to thank his wife Barb and past partners at Newsday before turning to thank the audience filled with people who shared the same passion he has.
“You folks made [promoting Long Island] so easy with your great hotels, your great attractions, your great museums, your great restaurants and your great parks,” he said. “They’re wonderful. It makes promoting Long Island so easy because of the great jobs you did. Thank you.”
Discover LI closed out another prosperous year and looks forward to 2019 with new ideas and campaigns ahead. Jarnagin announced that a new creative advertising campaign is in the works that will “redefine Long Island as a destination for visitors.” She also mentioned a first-time collaboration between Discover LI, New York City and the LI Railroad as well as new virtual reality assets throughout the island.
“It’s really a privilege to have this position and as great as 2018 was for our organization, we’re already looking ahead, and we’re happy to have more in store for you in 2019,” Jarnagin said.
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