Elizabeth “Betsy” Smith was appointed in March 2018 as president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy, where she oversees strategic planning, park operations, capital programming, public programming, development, and marketing and communication strategies. With the Conservancy’s 40-year restoration of Central Park now largely complete, her focus is on creating a plan that addresses the massive use of the Park while fostering continued stewardship through a commitment to financial sustainability, operational excellence, and engaged governance.
What do you wish more people understood about the tourism and hospitality industry?
That it is an enormous responsibility to care for iconic and beloved locations like Central Park. We take tremendous pride in knowing that so many people visit and enjoy what we care for, but it requires a massive amount of work for our staff and volunteers to ensure that every part of the Park — from lawns and fields to playgrounds and trees — remains clean, safe, and accessible for all.
How is the industry recovering after the pandemic?
The pandemic showed everyone how critical parks are to the well-being of all New Yorkers. They were incredibly well-used, and Central Park proved to be a uniquely safe gathering space for everyone at a time when indoor recreation and relaxation was impossible. Though it was a difficult period, working with our staff, volunteers, City partners, and supporters, we were able to ensure Central Park was there for everyone who needed it, and will continue to be moving forward.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken, or the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
Without a doubt, Yosemite National Park was the most memorable trip I’ve taken. Coincidentally, Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the designers of Central Park, was instrumental in the protection of Yosemite. I had the opportunity to look out from Olmsted Point, an incredible vista, and also had the most delicious hot dog of my life.
What is one tourist destination that all visitors should add to their itinerary?
I am undoubtedly a bit biased, but I truly believe Central Park is one of the most magnificent public spaces in the country, and is an absolute must-see for any visitor. Deemed by many to be one of the most important works of 19th-century American art, I don’t think there is a better site for a tourist to visit than the Ramble in Central Park.