42 minutes | Jul 1st 2020

Episode 186: Building the Staten Island Brand, with Colleen Siuzdak and Jennifer Sammartino

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Colleen Siuzdak is the Manager of VISIT Staten Island, a campaign run out of the Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. This office, created in June 2017, invites visitors to explore the borough’s many parks and cultural attractions, while encouraging residents to explore their own backyard. Start your journey to Staten Island on the free Staten Island Ferry and see the many offerings of the Unexpected Borough!

Jennifer Sammartino is a former journalist and experienced communications professional with a particular interest in serving the community. She’s fresh off serving as the first-ever Director of Tourism and Cultural Affairs for the Office of the Staten Island Borough President. And she is ecstatic to take on new challenges as Deputy Chief of Staff.

Destination on the Left is joined by Colleen Siuzdak and Jennifer Sammartino from the Staten Island Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. During our conversation, Colleen, Jennifer, and I discuss the different ways VISIT Staten Island entices visitors to explore the Unexpected Borough. We talk about the challenges of marketing a destination so close to Manhattan, and the creative ways in which VISIT Staten Island has collaborated to boost tourism!

What You Will Learn in This Episode:
  • Colleen and Jennifer’s journey into the travel and tourism industry
  • How the free Staten Island Ferry has made an impact on the Unexpected Borough’s visitor numbers
  • Why the VISIT Staten Island campaign entices visitors to explore the many offerings of the Unexpected Borough
  • The challenges of marketing a destination in such close proximity to Manhattan
  • Creative ways in which VISIT Staten Island has collaborated to boost tourism
  • How the decline in international travel has impacted their marketing strategy
  • How Colleen and Jennifer have embraced Staten Island’s parks and lower population density as they restructure their marketing efforts
  • Best practices that have made Colleen and Jennifer’s partnerships successful
  • How Colleen and Jennifer are taking a more holistic approach to destination marketing
VISIT Staten Island

Colleen Siuzdak and Jennifer Sammartino join us from the office of the Staten Island Borough President, James. S. Oddo! Colleen is the manager of VISIT Staten Island, a campaign highlighting the borough’s many parks and cultural attractions for visitors and locals alike. Jennifer is the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. Together, they form an unstoppable destination marketing team. In our conversation, Colleen, Jennifer, and I discuss the different ways VISIT Staten Island entices visitors to explore the Unexpected Borough. We talk about the challenges of marketing a destination so close to Manhattan, and the creative ways in which VISIT Staten Island has collaborated to boost tourism!

The Unexpected Borough

As we all know, the tourism and hospitality industry is extremely competitive—especially when a destination is nestled in the heart of a tier-one city like NYC. To help the Unexpected Borough stand out from the crowd, Colleen and Jennifer stretched their creative and collaborative efforts as far as they would go. They worked with the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce to hire a marketing agency that could help with some of the heavy lifting. They held workshops with cultural stakeholders in the area such as museums and art galleries, so they could rebrand Staten Island through that lens. Colleen and Jennifer created a unique and refreshing image for Staten Island, which gave them a platform to form partnerships and build itineraries moving forward.

You Haven’t Seen New York Until You’ve Seen Staten Island

The ”Unexpected Borough” tag line has taken off, and people are using it everywhere. It has been so well-received because the entire campaign is completely void of desperation and packed with confidence. Staten Island isn’t begging people to visit, they are asserting the notion that you haven’t truly seen New York without visiting Staten Island. There is so much to offer, and so much love to spread, which is why Colleen and Jennifer have seen such a great return on their investment in this project. When people finally do get to see Staten Island, they are proactively sharing their experiences for the world to see. It has created a compound effect that is driving visitor traffic to this day.

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