On the heels of the exit of Dutchess County Tourism’s president and CEO Mary Kay Vrba in July, comes the news from across the Hudson River. After 14 years as Ulster County Tourism Director, Rick Remsnyder is retiring. His last day was September 18.
In his position as tourism director, Remsnyder was responsible for the planning, coordination and administration of a variety of tourism marketing programs designed to attract visitors to Ulster County. And by all accounts, he’s hit it out of the ballpark. Tourism spending in the county has increased for the last nine years, increasing over 50 percent during that time, and reaching over $654 million in 2018.
Remsnyder, who was also the president of Hudson Valley Tourism and the Catskill Association for Tourism Services for four terms, says the most significant change in the county in the past 14 years is its perception. “We went from being considered an extinct Borscht Belt destination to a premier four-season tourism destination for not only New York State residents but also for countrywide and international tourists.”
Some of those destinations include now-hot towns and cities such as Saugerties, Kingston, New Paltz, Woodstock, and Phoenicia — and world-famous resorts such as Mohonk Mountain House, The Emerson Resort & Spa, and Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa.
The award-winning promotions and travel guides that Remsnyder has overseen during his tenure have played a big part of the increase in tourism, but he says it’s a team effort. “All the tourism properties have dramatically stepped up their games and continue to aggressively pursue their goals of always reaching the next level,” he says.
Eric Gullickson, President of Mohonk Mountain House, volleys the credit back to Remsnyder. “I have had the benefit of working with Rick for more than 20 years in our various capacities,” says Gullickson. “During that time he has unfailingly been wholly dedicated to not only championing for the magnificent assets of Ulster County, but also cultivating strong relationships across organizations by smartly leading the Tourism Advisory Board with a collaborative and spirited approach to buoy the entire region so that we all benefit from one another. He has established this culture and we all should look to model it as we make this transition.”
The Wilkes Barre, PA native, who was an “Army Brat” growing up, knows a thing or two about teamwork. He played basketball and golf as a teen, and his first journalism “job” was creating a two-page neighborhood newspaper about his neighborhood’s sports. “That’s when I knew I wanted to be a sportswriter,” he says. He continued his passion throughout high school and college, working for their newspapers. As a professional writer, he covered sports for the Daily Freeman in Kingston and was the chief golf writer for the The Journal News in White Plains.
A highlight for the golf aficionado was covering all four majors and PGA Tour, Champions Tour and LPGA Tour events in the New York metropolitan area. “I was fortunate enough to cover 35-40 major golf championships at the height of Tiger Woods’ dominance, including his record-setting 12-stroke victory as a 21-year-old in the 1997 Masters and his record-setting 15-stroke win in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.”
Now, with more time on his hands, Remsnyder is looking forward to “playing golf, traveling, writing and spending more time with my girlfriend, Tamara Murray, and my son, Ted.”
As for the future of tourism in the pandemic area, Remsnyder acknowledges that while “it has been a devastating impact to the industry on all levels,” he has faith. “I am continuously impressed by the resilience of the tourism businesses in Ulster County. With the innovative thinking and dogged determination of our tourism businesses we will come out of this.”