Amanda Cohen – Dirt Candy

Amanda Cohen

Chef and Owner, Dirt Candy

Amanda Cohen – Dirt Candy

Amanda Cohen is the James Beard-nominated chef and owner of Dirt Candy, the award-winning vegetable restaurant on New York City’s Lower East Side. She is also one of the Iron Chefs on Iron Chef Canada. Dirt Candy was the first vegetable-focused restaurant in the city and is a pioneer of the vegetable-forward movement. Her comic book cookbook, Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, is the first graphic novel cookbook to be published in North America. It’s currently in its seventh printing. She is also a cofounder of the Independent Restaurant Coalition.

How is the industry recovering after the pandemic?
Slowly. The pandemic isn’t over and every day is still a struggle to survive. It’s going to be many years before any restaurateur isn’t worried about what is going to happen next.

What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken, or the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
A few years ago I had the chance to visit Tokyo and cook with the chefs at Tsurutokame. Not only was the meal I had at the restaurant one of the best in my life, but getting to cook with the women chefs who run the kitchen was an experience I will never forget.

What is one tourist destination that all visitors should add to their itinerary?
I am a huge fan of the Greek Islands. They are all incredibly beautiful and each one has a different story to tell.

Laurie Cumbo – NYC Department of Cultural Affairs

Laurie Cumbo

Commissioner, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

Laurie Cumbo – NYC Department of Cultural Affairs

Laurie Cumbo was appointed cultural affairs commissioner for the City of New York by Mayor Eric Adams in March 2022. Cumbo previously served as Majority Leader in the New York City Council, where she represented the Council’s 35th district for eight years and championed equitable support for New York’s cultural community. Prior to the Council, Cumbo founded MoCADA in Brooklyn and worked at the Metropolitan Museum, High Museum, Brooklyn Museum, and Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

What do you wish more people understood about the tourism and hospitality industry?
Tourism is a five borough industry, and there are cultural attractions in every corner of NYC. I love a Broadway show as much as anyone, but the Bronx Museum, Louis Armstrong House, Snug Harbor, Weeksville, and National Black Theater are all extraordinary places, too. Our partners at NYC & Company do an amazing job of spreading the word about opportunities to explore culture across the city. There are no better ambassadors for New York than New Yorkers, so let’s all celebrate the local places we love so that others can find them — and spend some money there — too.

How is the industry recovering after the pandemic?
Our arts community was profoundly damaged by the pandemic. The sorts of live engagements that our cultural sector thrives on and that makes it so essential to NYC vanished overnight, and they’re still struggling to return. So my priority as commissioner, and my mandate from the Mayor, is to be laser focused on helping our cultural sector recover. Just before I started, the Mayor released the “Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent” blueprint for NYC’s economic recovery, and culture is front and center. To start, we’re investing $5M in our cultural nonprofits so they can continue to serve New Yorkers and attract visitors.

What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken, or the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
When I was studying abroad in college, I saw an incredible performance of Aida at the Cairo Opera House in Egypt. Soon after I returned home to New York, I went to the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Aida — with my mother as one of the performers. She was a tour guide at Lincoln Center and they cast her as a super in Aida. She’s been performing in it for over 20 years now.

What is one tourist destination that all visitors should add to their itinerary?
The African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan. It’s a peaceful, contemplative site, remarkably sheltered from the bustle of the city around it. Next to the outdoor monument, the National Parks Service operates a small visitor center. Across the street in Foley Square, the towering Triumph of the Human Spirit by Dr. Lorenzo Pace is a tall stone fountain. It’s a public artwork commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs intended to commemorate and converse with the African Burial Ground. Together, they’re powerful reminders of the contributions of Africans dating back to NYC’s earliest days, and how our city was built.

Vijay Dandapani – Hotel Association of New York City

Vijay Dandapani

President and CEO, Hotel Association of New York City

Vijay Dandapani – Hotel Association of New York City

Mr. Dandapani is a hotel industry veteran who co-founded Apple Core Hotels. He was appointed president and chief executive officer of the Hotel Association in January 2017. In 1998, he was recognized by Crain’s New York Business as one of the top 100 minority business leaders in New York City. In 2002, the Asian American Business Development Center selected him as one of 50 Outstanding Asian Americans in Business. Mr. Dandapani was appointed by Mayor de Blasio to the COVID-19 Arts, Culture and Tourism Sector Advisory Council.

What do you wish more people understood about the tourism and hospitality industry?
Unlike any other industry it offers a career path to the very top, oftentimes with no specialized college degree (although the latter does help).

How is the industry recovering after the pandemic?
In New York City the recovery has been much slower than in other parts of the country such as Florida, Colorado and Texas, for example. A principal reason is that NYC is a gateway international city and the federal government still has a negative antigen test requirement taken no more than 24 hours before travel to the United States. Additionally, office usage has been lower than many in other states resulting in far fewer meetings from visitors out of town and resultant loss in hotel room usage.

What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken, or the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
The most memorable trip I have taken is to Lebanon a few years ago when I toured the entire, albeit small, country.

What is one tourist destination that all visitors should add to their itinerary?
New York City.

Joshua David

Co-Founder and Interim Executive Director, Friends of the High Line

Joshua David is the co-founder and interim executive director of Friends of the High Line. Mr. David co-created the nonprofit organization with Robert Hammond in 1999 to generate support for the preservation and adaptation of the historic elevated urban rail line into a public park for New York. He served as president of the organization until 2015, after which he joined the World Monuments Fund as president and CEO. Mr. David rejoined the Friends of the High Line in 2021 in his current role.

Ravi DeRossi – Overthrow Hospitality (1)

Ravi DeRossi

Founder and CEO, Overthrow Hospitality

Ravi DeRossi – Overthrow Hospitality (1)

Artist turned restaurateur and bar owner Ravi DeRossi is a veteran of the New York City hospitality industry, owning and operating dozens of critically-acclaimed venues. DeRossi’s bars and restaurants have been featured in hundreds of thousands of national, international, and local publications, receiving acclaim for their impact on cocktail culture, animal welfare, and climate change. In the past seven years, Ravi has turned Overthrow Hospitality 100% plant-based in order to save animals and combat climate change as best he can.

What do you wish more people understood about the tourism and hospitality industry?
I wish people understood that the choices they make on where to dine and drink can have a huge effect on the world we live in. The quickest and best way for any individual to help our climate crisis starts with the food on each individual’s plate.

How is the industry recovering after the pandemic?
It is difficult for me to say how the industry as a whole is recovering since the pandemic as I don’t pay much attention, I keep my head down and work, but if we can take our company, Overthrow Hospitality, as an example then I’d say it is recovering very well. We are having an exceptional year with several new projects in the works.

What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken, or the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
On one evening in Santorini, my girlfriend and I chartered a private boat that sailed us throughout the Aegean Sea. It was just the two of us, the Captain, and his first mate. As the sun was setting, we ate dinner — the food was less than mediocre — but after we finished, I asked my girlfriend to marry me. It will forever be the greatest meal of my life . . . she said ‘yes.’

What is one tourist destination that all visitors should add to their itinerary?
In NYC I believe the must-stop tourist destination is the East Village on a Sunday afternoon in springtime. It has some of the best restaurants and cocktail bars in the world. Most nights it can get very crowded but on a Sunday afternoon when the sun is shining, before the summer heat has set in, there is nothing better then strolling around the EV, having brunch at one of the many amazing places to dine, then sipping a cocktail before having a fantastic tasting menu with a bottle of a light crisp white wine to accompany.

Fred Dixon – NYC & Company

Fred Dixon

President and CEO, NYC & Company

Fred Dixon – NYC & Company

Fred Dixon is president and CEO of NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization. He joined the organization in 2005 as vice president of tourism and rose to become CEO in 2014. With more than 30 years of experience in the travel industry, Dixon is responsible for developing and implementing New York City’s tourism, meetings and events strategy, and programming to grow business and leisure travel. In 2020 during the early months of the pandemic, Dixon organized the Coalition for NYC Hospitality and Tourism Recovery, which brought industry leaders together to begin planning a path back.

Fred is a respected leader with positions on travel industry association boards and committees including the New York Convention Center Operating Corporation Board of the U.S. Travel Association, where he serves as vice chair of the board, and Destinations International, where he serves as treasurer. He has previously held board positions with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, Tourism Cares, the National Tour Association, and Student & Youth Travel Association.

Prior to joining NYC & Company, Fred served in key positions at the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Planet Hollywood International, The Biltmore Estate, the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Delta Airlines, and Group Sales Box Office.

Ed Domingo – Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts

Ed Domingo

Senior Vice President and General Manager, Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts

Ed Domingo – Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts

Ed Domingo oversees day-to-day operations at Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts in Westchester County. Formerly chief financial officer of Bellagio in Las Vegas, Domingo is an industry veteran with decades of experience in law, finance, hospitality, and gaming. A first generation Filipino-American born and raised in Dallas, Texas, he received his B.A. and M.B.A. from Duke University, and J.D. from NYU School of Law. Domingo resides in Westchester with his wife, twin daughters, and two dogs.

What do you wish more people understood about the tourism and hospitality industry?
The pandemic has clearly demonstrated the economic impact of this industry — when it’s thriving and what’s at stake when it is not. As a leader in the tourism and hospitality industry, MGM Resorts is in the business of people, entertainment, and experiences. Some may not understand the incredible team and organization that goes into delivering unparalleled hospitality service and unforgettable experiences. Our company’s success is largely accomplished through the continued efforts of improving guest amenities and experiences, as well as curating the perfect team to make all of this happen on a daily basis.

How is the industry recovering after the pandemic?
MGM Resorts’ focus remained on the safety of our employees and guests, implementing a 7-Step Safety Plan and closely adhering to regulatory guidance, while pivoting to touchless experiences where possible. After an almost 6 month closure, our guests were thrilled to see our doors open again, as were surrounding businesses and vendors impacted by our operations. Like many industries, the reopening of our services and amenities is dependent on business demands. We know our guests have choices for entertainment and are proud that they continue to choose Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts as an entertainment destination.

What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken, or the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
We took our 6-year-old girls to Thailand and Vietnam and had unbelievable experiences. Our most memorable meal (according to my girls even five years later) was in Hoi An, Vietnam, at an amazing tiny shop with four folding tables and plastic garden stools, which sold $1 banh mi sandwiches. We’ve lived in some of the greatest sandwich cities, including NYC and Chicago, but this was the best meal ever served between two pieces of bread!

What is one tourist destination that all visitors should add to their itinerary?
I have to plug Las Vegas as a world-renowned entertainment destination. It has every flavor of music across its residency shows and some of the highest quality venues for seeing household-name performers on tour, and it’s becoming a hub for pro sports too. With the recently adopted NYS budget, we are optimistic we’ll be able to bring some of that Vegas experience here to Empire City Casino where we already welcome over nine million visitors a year. We know we can become a destination for even more people visiting the city when we are given the chance to expand.

Susan M. Donoghue – New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Susan M. Donoghue

Commissioner, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Susan M. Donoghue – New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Susan M. Donoghue became commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation in February 2022. From 2014 until 2022, Susan served as president of Prospect Park Alliance, the nonprofit organization that operates the park in partnership with the City of New York, and Prospect Park administrator. Since her appointment in 2014, she has been responsible for raising over $130 million for capital improvements in the park, and she also spearheaded the transformation of People + Culture at the Alliance through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion. Prior to her appointment, Sue served as a senior advisor and assistant commissioner at NYC Parks, where she played a leadership role in PlaNYC, Mayor Bloomberg’s blueprint for enhancing the city’s sustainability.

What do you wish more people understood about the tourism and hospitality industry?
NYC has a wealth of must-see attractions in all five boroughs and well beyond the most obvious and recognizable ones in Manhattan, though those are great as well. In our parks, there are beautiful landscapes, historic houses and museums, and gorgeous beaches easily accessible by subway and well worth the visit. 

How is the industry recovering after the pandemic?
By emphasizing that NYC is open for business and is as vibrant, dynamic, and compelling to visit as ever before. New York and its citizens are resilient, and through new amenities like the Open Streets that are parallel to our parks and our outdoor dining venues, there are even more reasons to visit than ever before.

What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken, or the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
There’s nothing better than hopping on the D train and arriving at the beach in Coney Island or transferring to the 2 line to venture to the Bronx to experience the magic of Pelham Bay Park or Orchard Beach. New York is filled with so many great food destinations that it’s difficult to choose one, but I’ve had extremely memorable picnics and “Sunday Suppers” in Prospect Park and great meals in Astoria and Jackson Heights in Queens.

What is one tourist destination that all visitors should add to their itinerary?
What makes New York so compelling is the variety of experiences one can enjoy all in one day or in a weekend. I’d recommend a walk across our Highbridge, NYC’s oldest standing bridge, which connects the South Bronx and Northern Manhattan, as well as a walk up the Highbridge Water Tower — a NYC landmark that offers panoramic views up and down the Harlem River and down into the city.

Mark Dorr – New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association

Mark Dorr

President, New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association

Mark Dorr – New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association

Mark Dorr was named president of the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association in 2016. He is the statewide representative voice for the tourism industry on all legislative and regulatory issues. NYSHTA represents members ranging from a three room bed-and-breakfast to a five star 500-room resort; these member segments are diverse, as is NYSHTA’s representation of them in front of state government.

What do you wish more people understood about the tourism and hospitality industry?
I wish more people understood that as tourism goes, so goes the state’s economy. More than any other industry, tourism’s success drives real economic impact. People don’t realize tourism in New York State is a $117 billion per year industry and it supports 1 million jobs!

How is the industry recovering after the pandemic?
The tourism industry, along with restaurants, was the hardest hit industry during the pandemic. At first, hotels were not considered essential businesses, but we were able to lobby to get them included. Even during the height of the pandemic the resort areas did well because you could be outdoors. This summer booking looks to be ahead of the 2019 pace . . . they are calling it “revenge tourism!” The one area still struggling to come back is the business traveler, but that is slowly returning.

What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken, or the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
The most memorable trip I have ever taken was, where else, in New York State. Just before the pandemic our family went to New York City, stayed at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square and went to the Rockettes Christmas Show. My daughters Lauryn and Sydney are dancers, so they thought it was amazing to see the famous Rockettes and we were even able to meet some of them backstage.

What is one tourist destination that all visitors should add to their itinerary?
The one tourist destination all visitors should see is Niagara Falls. I have been there several times and the power of the Falls is breathtaking. If anyone goes, the Falls are great, but you need to make sure you do the “Cave of the Winds” attraction. You literally stand under the falls and you will never forget it. Go on a hot, sunny summer day because the water is cold!!!!

Diane Eggert

Executive Director, Farmers Market Federation of New York

Diane Eggert is the executive director of the Farmers Market Federation of New York. Raised on a multi-generational farm in Syracuse, New York, Ms. Eggert used her life of expertise to build the Farmers Market Federation of New York. Once established as a nonprofit organization in 1999, Ms. Eggert was named executive director. In her over 20 years serving in this role, Ms. Eggert has been instrumental in advancing the farmers market industry in New York State, and has assisted other states in developing their own state-level farmers market organizations. She is also a founding member of the Farmers Market Coalition.