Combining an intentional service-driven, client-first approach with major infrastructure redevelopment, Rochester, N.Y., continues to establish a ROC-solid position in the Northeast and broader group market. Visit Rochester President & CEO Don Jeffries discussed how the positive momentum from 2018 is carrying New York’s third-largest city forward in 2019.

“Last year’s focus centered on highlighting unique experiences for clients and meeting delegates, while also delivering a level of service unmatched by other similarly sized CVBs,” Jeffries said. “Recognizing that clients are looking for ways to impress their attendees, we reimagined site visits into completely customized programs. By introducing clients to locations and experiences that are unique to Rochester, we provide new and different ideas on how to make their next event here stand out.”

Service excellence, including complimentary event support, and close collaboration with the city’s hospitality community, help to establish Rochester’s competitive edge. The bureau also facilitates connections with the city’s knowledge community, which includes 18 colleges and universities.

“Meeting groups are rarely at a loss to find high-quality speakers and subject matter experts in a number of fields, including science, engineering, optics/photonics, medicine, agriculture and more,” Jeffries said.

Rochester | Montanus Photography

With key 2018 wins that include Pilot International’s 2020 national event, and for an unprecedented third year in a row, the return of the Special Olympics of New York’s Winter Games, 2019 stands to potentially broaden Rochester’s exposure and reach via new state-level partnership initiatives.

“Meeting and convention destinations across the state, Rochester included, will collaborate on different programs designed to increase New York State’s impact in the national meetings market,” Jeffries said. “This retooled state collaboration effort, along with an amplified presence in the New York State/Albany market, has been key in keeping Rochester at the forefront in meeting, convention and sports segment.”

Major infrastructure upgrades and enhancements are also fortifying the city’s appeal.

Dynamic Developments

Just three miles from downtown, the Greater Rochester International Airport recently completed a sweeping $68 million transformation.

Completely overhauling the airport experience for travelers, highlights include:

  • new retail and dining options;
  • upgraded security measures and new scanners;
  • charging stations for mobile devices;
  • and Bluetooth technology, allowing visitors to tap into updated flight and gate information.

With Jet Blue adding new direct service from Boston, Jeffries said that “the investment has helped to better connect our community on a national scale.”

Another profile-boosting project is the 100,000-square-foot expansion of The Strong National Museum of Play. The investment is supported by 2015 market research findings that the museum could nearly double its current annual attendance of 550,000 visitors by expanding its facilities and by broadening outreach in nearby markets such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

The Strong National Museum of Play
The Strong National Museum of Play

The July 2018 groundbreaking was accompanied by the launch of Powered by Play, a $60 million capital campaign to help fund the project. Slated for summer 2020, the expansion anchors the Neighborhood of Play, an urban development incorporating a nearly 1,000-car parking garage, hotel and mixed retail space.

Additions at The Strong, the world’s only collections-based museum devoted solely to studying and presenting the history of play, include a new home for the World Video Game Hall of Fame and its Women in Games initiative, high-adventure ropes course and interactive outdoor play garden.

“Through this project, we will extend our international reach and contribute to a modern-day renaissance for the region,” stated The Strong’s President & CEO Steve Dubnik in a release.

The expansion is projected to generate more than $130 million in annual economic impact for the Rochester area.

With an estimated $922 million invested in downtown Rochester in 2017, yet more urban redevelopment is expanding options for planners and groups.

Steps from the downtown convention district, Branca Midtown and Bar Bantam are event-capable restaurants housed in the new Tower 280 and Metropolitan Building developments, respectively.

The Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center recently initiated a $4 million rehabilitation of its terrace and patio overlooking the Genesee River. Slated for fall 2019, the project falls under New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “ROC The Riverway” program.

This revitalization of the Genesee River corridor aims to “consolidate more than two dozen transformative projects … under a single concept to achieve synergy and leverage the value of Rochester’s riverfront.”

Other group venues slated for significant upgrades under the program include the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial.

Above and Beyond

Averaging more than 550,000 annual visitors from all 50 states and around the world, The Strong is one of the most popular attractions in the U.S. Offering a range of distinctive venues, programming and learning opportunities, the museum is part of an extended cultural campus that earned Rochester recognition from the National Center for Arts Research as the nation’s 17th most arts-vibrant city in 2018.

Happiest Hour Dance Party, the Strong National Museum of Play
Happiest Hour Dance Party, the Strong National Museum of Play | The Strong Museum

Other signature event-capable venues include the George Eastman Museum, the world’s oldest photography museum from 1947. Locally known as “the mini MET,” the Memorial Art Gallery’s permanent collection of more than 12,000 objects, spanning 5,000 years, is considered the best balanced in the state outside of New York City. Housed in a renovated factory, ARTISANworks features artists’ studios and nearly 500,000 pieces of artwork, antiques, automobiles and memorabilia. Multiple themed rental spaces include the Casablanca Room, after the film classic; the Firehouse, featuring a vintage fire engine and other artifacts; and the Retro Room.

Diverse other draws include the Genesee Country Village & Museum in nearby Mumford.

Presenting interactive programs, events and exhibits depicting life in 19th century America, the museum is distinguished as New York’s largest and most comprehensive living-history museum, with the nation’s third-largest collection of historic buildings.

The seasonal Seabreeze Amusement Park is America’s oldest family-owned, and fourth-oldest operating amusement park. Groups can also traverse Rochester-area portions of the 100-mile multiuse Erie Canal Heritage Trail.

Hands-On CVB

Whatever their purpose, groups can count on Visit Rochester to create memorable programs. Unique experiences developed by the bureau’s convention services department include a group takeover of Radio Social, the largest bowling and entertainment center north of New York City; an opening reception at the George Eastman Museum; and regional day trips to the Finger Lakes wine region.

When the Alexandria, Va.-based American Council for the Blind (ACB) brings its annual eight-day conference and convention to Rochester this July, off-site programs include a chocolate-making and tasting experience at Laughing Gull Chocolates downtown. The ACB is utilizing two hotels, the Hyatt Regency Rochester and the Rochester Riverside Hotel, and the convention center for the event.

“Promoting these complimentary services to existing and prospective clients is part of our continuing strategic focus for 2019 and beyond,” Jeffries said. “Dedication to consistently exceeding client and meeting attendee expectations is just one way that Visit Rochester sets itself apart from our regional competitors.” 

Rochester, N.Y., CVB Contact Information

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