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Before He Became a Viral Sensation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo Was Captain of New York’s Team Travel

Before taking center stage in the COVID-19 crisis, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was pulling his weight for the travel industry in the Empire State.

As news watchers around the world know, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has become an almost daily fixture in coverage of the Covid-19 crisis. The Governor’s press conferences (a mix of news, question and answers and homely patter about his family and his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo) have become everyday viewing for New Yorkers as well as for a wider audience across America.

However, in 2014, I got to know another side of Governor Cuomo as I participated in his 2014 Governor’s Adirondack Challenge – a white water rafting contest – and later in the summer,the Bassmaster Elite Bass Fishing Tournament.

The whitewater rafting challenge was held at Indian Lake, the self-described “Whitewater Rafting Capital of New York State,” a 17-mile gorge trip with Class III-IV rapids. The Bass Challenge is a serious tournament on Cayuga Lake where over 300 professional fisherpeople (and Governor Cuomo and the media) competed to draw attention to upstate New York tourism.

Photo Above: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo with former Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, in white water challenge for I Love New York: photo by Gretchen Kelly

The Governor has long been a strong advocate for tourism in New York State, New York City and its surround regions.

“Tourism is vital to New York’s economy – it creates jobs and opportunity in virtually every community across the state,” Cuomo said at the announcement of 2015’s $50 million dollar spend to increase tourism in the state. “When people visit New York, they fall in love with all that our state has to offer and keep coming back. I am proud that our administration is continuing to play a leading role in supporting tourism across the state, and I look forward to seeing the industry and our economy thrive for years to come.”

I watched Cuomo done his team t-shirt and jump gamely into his raft to captain for New York State tourism.

The course was challenging and the Governor emerged wet and muddy but unbowed – not the first captain

to make the winning mark but undaunted nonetheless.

After drying off, the Governor’s remarks at a media lunch highlighted the fact that tourism and travel were an integral part of the Empire State, an industry that should be fueled with as much energy and commitment as had been on display in the churning white water of the Hudson River that afternoon.

Later in the summer at the Bassmaster Challenge, I watched as Cuomo tried to get the bass to bite without success.

The water was calm although there was a light drizzle in the warm late summer air. “You can’t say I didn’t try,” I heard him mutter, as he watched other boats scoring points while his hook remained frustratingly empty.

Photo: Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Bassmasters Challenge 2014, Photo by Gretchen Kelly

Again, the Governor used the challenge to make the point afterwards that win or lose, the day out on a New York lake was worth the effort.

Now, as I watch Cuomo talk day after day about “New York Tough” and a phased return to “the new normal,” during the Covid-19 crisis, I know from personal experience that as soon as the State’s lakes, rivers, trails, cities and towns open for travel, the Governor will be helming team travel once again, no matter what the challenge.