New tourism office spotlights the county's 'recession-proof' charms

GOSHEN. "How can you be bored here?" Tourism director Amanda Dana says Orange County's location and range of offerings — from water sports to skiing, hiking, black dirt farms, art galleries, shops, and historical attractions — make it an attractive destination.

Goshen /
Aug 20 2019 | 02:31 PM

Even if you’re not a visitor, you'll find a stop the office of Orange County Tourism & Film Welcome Center, at 99 Main St. in Goshen, worthwhile. Residents too, whether new or longtime, will find much to see and learn there.

Housed in an attractive red brick building — connected by a bridge to the annex that houses the historian’s office — the new office has great visibility from the street and easy access from the sidewalk.

Before opening, the director of Orange County Tourism, Amanda Dana, revamped the décor to make the office more inviting.

“I took down a wall, moved file cabinets, and made it a display-orientated ‘welcoming’ welcome center,” she said.

Dana pointed to wall signs representing all that Orange County has to offer: arts, culture, history, shopping, recreation, lodging, craft beverages, and farm-to-table opportunities.

A captivating full-color video running on a large screen is a highlight reel of the county's charm and beauty. It can be comfortably watched in a living room setting, with a sofa and easy chairs.

On the far wall, visible as you come through the door, is a mural of a black dirt farm scene by Sugar Loaf photographer Nick Zungoli.

“The black dirt area is a big part of the county, not just for tourism, but for contributing to our economy,” Dana said.

Making Orange County a destination

Dana said local tourism is becoming much more than it once was.

“We now see tourism in Orange County changing," she said. "It’s becoming a destination. We’re not there yet, but it’s coming.”

Her goal is to show visitors all of the attractions they may not realize are here.

“How can people be bored here when we have so much to offer?” she said. "Visitors can find adventure — water sports, skiing, hiking, shopping at Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets. And for history buffs, there’s West Point.”

She said the county's superior location makes it “recession proof." People can take a great vacation here without spending a lot of money or traveling long distances.

“We have so much here to see and do, with great accommodations,” Dana said.

Getting the word out

Orange County Tourism is funded by visitors’ dollars through the occupancy tax, also called the “bed tax.” Revenue from this tax goes into a general fund for tourism.

“The lion’s share goes to marketing promotion,” said Dana. “I’m thankful our county executive gives tourism a priority. It’s refreshing to see.”

Her main mission at this time is to convert day-trippers into overnight guests. To do this, Dana is not only educating herself but also leaning on partners like Legoland New York in Goshen and Woodbury Commons.

“Both are marketing entities instrumental in this field and generous with helping us out in this area,” she said.

Orange County Tourism is looking to open other welcome centers, notably at Legoland and Stewart Airport in New Windsor. The tourism office already has a marketing presence at the airport, in anticipation that an international airline will resume flights there.

Film mecca in the making

As of June, the tourism office has managed the Orange County Film Office, a resource center for producers and production scouts looking to produce short films, documentaries, commercials, or major motion pictures in the county.

“Film is big business, bringing in a tremendous amount of economic benefit to the area where the filming takes place,” said Dana. “We’re putting our toes in the water and hoping to jump in. It’s a lot fun.”

The Orange County Tourism & Film Welcome Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. It’s mostly on the first floor and is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We now see tourism in Orange County changing. It’s becoming a destination. We’re not there yet, but it’s coming.” — Amanda Dana, tourism director