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Queens businesses make push to attract summer tourists

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When many tourists come to New York City, all they see of Queens is the interior of John F. Kennedy International or LaGuardia airports, but the Queens Economic Development Corp.’s summer program hopes to change that trend.

At one of the borough’s biggest draws, the New York Mets’ Citi Field in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the QEDC announced “Discover Queens — 75 Days of Summer.”

This program seeks to promote the borough through highlighting the attractions and festivals held throughout the season. To do this the QEDC is partnering with groups big and small, from Delta Airlines and travel company Expedia to individual artists like Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz, who holds the New York City Musical Saw Festival, and Gabriela Granados of the American Bolero Dance Co. The Queens Botanical Garden also brought out its mascot, Flora, and Borough President Helen Marshall came out to wish the program well.

“There’s so much going on in this borough, and there’s so much you don’t have to spend a lot of money for,” said Seth Bornstein, the QEDC executive director.

Michelle Stoddart, director of marketing and tourism for the QEDC, said in the last two years the corporation’s tourism council was not active, but this initiative represents a relaunch which heavily integrates social media.

“We want to reach people out on the ground through their mobile phones,” Stoddart said. She added that in future years the QEDC hopes to offer applications that can be accessed through scanning a barcode with a smartphone, similar to their partner the Queens Art Express, which hosts artists on the No. 7 train.

Through the QEDC’s website, Facebook and Twitter, visitors can get information about attractions, restaurants, art shows and festivals as well as special discounts they can receive as part of 75 Days of Summer. Each day until fall the website will post something new in Queens to do, often with a special offer.

The website also allows users to book hotel rooms through a partnership with Expedia. In addition, residents and tourists can obtain information about the program at the corporation’s visitor’s center at Queens Center Mall, at 90-15 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst, while the corporation’s spot is near the 57th Avenue entrance across from Applebee’s.

“It’s really part of an ongoing effort to promote Queens visibility,” said Catherine Barton of the Pinwheel Group, a Long Island City marketing and branding firm for housing, green projects and other clients, who spoke at the kickoff.

Meanwhile, organizations such as the United States Tennis Association, Delta Air Lines, Queens Council on the Arts and NYC & Co. will be pushing the initiative.

“Because working together we’re getting more and more individuals to discover Queens and enjoy the summer,” Marshall said.

Paruz said she believed the borough was really moving up as a destination and the QEDC’s program offered a fantastic opportunity for artists.

“I really think in a few years we’re really going to catch up with Brooklyn and Manhattan, maybe even surpass them,” Paruz said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 10:52 am, October 12, 2011
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