Name: Jay Cloutier
Title: Director of Sales
Organization: Discover Albany
Location: Albany County, New York
Birthplace: Burlington, Vermont
Education: Bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Vermont
Senior sales manager at Visit Albany; left in 2005 to work in various hotels in the area; returned to Discover Albany in 2017 as director of sales.
Growing up in Burlington, Vermont, Jay Cloutier was like a lot of other young men who didn’t know what they wanted to do when they grew up.
“I graduated high school with little to no direction, so I got a job in the restaurant industry as I worked my way through college,” Cloutier said. “The last few years I was in a management position, and management took me to a convention and visitors bureau dinner, and I thought, ‘This is what I want to be doing.’”
His colleagues agreed it would be a good fit, but there were few positions available in Vermont. He began to look further afield.
He relocated to Albany, New York, at his ex-wife’s suggestion — she recommended him for a position that had opened at the local CVB. That was a good move both professionally — he got the job — and personally, as he could be in the same city as his sons. He worked in the state association and religious markets for roughly five and a half years before leaving to work on the hotel side of hospitality.
“That proved to be a good decision because it gave me the whole perspective on what hotels experience when hosting meetings,” he said.
When his former supervisor at the CVB retired after 19 years, he jumped at the chance to become director of sales. Nearly two decades later, Cloutier is still sharing Albany’s story with people.
“We’ve come a long way in 20 years,” he said. “There’s a treasure trove of stuff to discover here, and so much of it is free because it’s run by the state or the county.”
Among Cloutier’s favorite Albany attractions is the USS Slater, a WWII destroyer escort moored on the Hudson River. After numerous tours of the ship, he still learns something new every time because of the volunteers who work there.
“They all tell amazing stories and are responsible for the constant restoration work happening on the ship,” he said. “People are amazed how much there is to discover on the ship alone.”
Cloutier also loves the New York State Capitol, which took nearly 40 years to construct.
“The story of the beauty and opulence of the building dates back to the Civil War,” he said. “It was really built to show not just the country but the world that New York was a force to be reckoned with — we were the state in the Union that provided the most during the war.”
In appealing to meeting planners who are considering Albany as their destination, Cloutier uses the city’s proximity to major New England hubs as the draw.
“We’re so close to where people are located — just about three hours from cities like Boston, Philadelphia, New York — that meetings here end up being some of the best attended compared to those in other cities,” he said. “Once attendees are here, Albany is easy to use, navigate and get around, especially for conferences using multiple properties. Several properties are only a couple of blocks from each other and some are within a couple of miles of the airport.”
Cloutier has spent his career bringing meetings and conferences to a small city in upstate New York that many people wouldn’t necessarily consider as a first choice, but that is what he loves about it.
“When I was asked in my interview how I’d represent the destination to clients, the answer I gave them 20 years ago is the same answer I’d give today,” he said. “The key is to connect with someone locally and have them champion the destination.”
Tips from Jay Cloutier
• Get the destination’s staff involved early. Whether you work with a sales team on RFP distribution and bid collection, or contact them when the hotel/facility is selected, invariably clients who engage early on get to take advantage of the broadest array of complimentary services. Site tour coordination, off-site activity options and convention service support are best leveraged when given enough time to explore your options. Budgets for smaller destinations like Albany are less flexible, so early engagement ensures the best menu of options.
• Ask to engage with the social media team with the DMO you are working with. Sharing hashtags and handles with the social media team can increase exposure and engage local audiences. Local awareness of your group’s presence in a community can help make your attendees feel even more welcome, particularly as they explore the broader destination.
• If lowering your carbon footprint or reducing food waste is of interest to you and your conference attendees, we have easy-to-access options for food recovery and other services to help you meet your conference goals for leaving a small footprint on the community you visit.