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Suffolk launching effort to urge residents to vacation locally

Suffolk, which pays the Long Island Convention and Vistors bureau $2 million to draw tourists from outside Long Island, is launching a new campaign to also encourage local residents to vacation close to home.

The new campaign, being done on without new spending, is dubbed "Stay Suffolk," and starts early next month with 30-second public service TV announcements -- tailored to county residents -- and a new website, "Stay Suffolk"

Officials say it continue beyond the summer season to promote fall events such as pumpkin picking, wineries and beach walks.

"When Suffolk residents think of vacations, we want them to think of staying Suffolk,' said County Executive Steve Bellone. "We have more 1,000 miles of coastline, world famous beaches, fishing, wineries. Twenty-five percent of our land is devoted to open space, parks and preserved farms which draws people from around the globe."

Up to now, state and local money spent on tourism TV advertising is limited to attracting visitors from outside the island, but county officials say the convention and visitors bureau has agreed to let county use existing tourism ads, redubbed with messages tailored for the local audience. Bellone aides say those public service spots will run free on Cablevision. (Newsday is owned by Cablevision.)

The first redubbed ad shows visitors at the beach, fishing and on a patio sipping wine at sunset. The narrator describes Suffolk as a "premiere travel destination rich in history, culture and family fun -- right here in your own backyard. Stay local, stay-cation, stay Suffolk."

Stay will link computer users to the Suffolk secton of the convention bureau's website, Discover Long Island, which has listings of Suffolk attractions, weekend events and accommodations.

The intiative comes as officials say the county's $5.6 million-a-year tourism industry, which supports about 74,000 related jobs, is booming. However, this year's sales tax receipts have been been nearly flat fo r the last six months, raising the specter that Suffolk could end up $57 to $71 million short of what was budgeted for 2015.

Comptroller John Kennedy, meanwhile, said he plans to improve enforcement of the county's 3 percent hotel-motel room tax, which brings in $9 million. So far, he said, audits have found two owners who were not filing and six others who have been delinquent.

The "Stay Suffolk" campaign involves a wide range of partners including towns, local historic groups, the Long Island State Parks Commission, the Long Island Wine Council and the Fire Island National Seashore, each using their own websites to promote the effort.

Steve Bate, bureau vice chairman and wine council executive director, called it a "great initiative" that will help reinforce existing efforts to attract local residents especially in the off-season winter months.

"We'd like to have them stay longer, but even those making day trips or half day trips are important to us," he said.

Legis. Jay Schneiderman, deputy presiding officer and a Montauk motel owner, praised Bellone's effort, saying, "It has always been a frustrtation of mine that we don't advertise on Long Island when a large percentage of our business is local."

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