Tourism Officials: Visitation To CT's Major Attractions Sees Improvement
By MATTHEW STURDEVANT
May 21, 2013
The state's year-old "Still Revolutionary" campaign is working, and visitation to six major Connecticut attractions increased 6.8 percent from 2011 to last year, according to the state Office of Tourism.
The news was released Tuesday during the Connecticut Conference on Tourism held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. The annual conference has been around since 1994. It was hosted by the state Office of Tourism, drawing nearly 500 people and featuring hour-long sessions with speakers from the online-rating site TripAdvisor, the U.S. Travel Association and others from the travel industry.
The 6.8 percent increase in visitation is based on combined attendance at Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium, Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, the Mark Twain House and Museum and the New England Air Museum for the first 10 months of 2011 and 2012, according to the state Office of Tourism. The office did not have more recent figures.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy spoke to attendees, saying that $15 million in the state's fiscal-year 2012 budget to promote Connecticut is paying for itself. The money was used to launch the "Still Revolutionary" brand and marketing campaign.
"Just on a tax income basis, the tax pays for itself," Malloy said. He added that it will take a few years for Connecticut to reposition itself to where it should be in terms of attracting tourists.
Malloy also mentioned that he will be on the road again this summer, visiting sites across the state.
"Now, we really need it to take off," Barbara Cieplak, director of marketing for the state Office of Tourism, said of the Still Revolutionary campaign. The state's director of branding, Christine Castonguay, said it takes a minimum of five years to solidify a brand campaign.
The state Office of Tourism said tourism generates $11.5 billion in annual economic activity and $1.15 billion in state and local tax revenue. Last year, 38 percent of new jobs in Connecticut were in the leisure and hospitality sectors, according to the tourism office.
For the first time, state tourism officials held a competition for "fan favorite town of the year," which went to Niantic, a village in the town of East Lyme.
For the second year, the state held a competition for "favorite destination," and the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic won that contest. Nearly 10,000 people voted in the contest and almost 2,000 destinations were listed as possible "favorites." Last year, the designation went to the Mark Twain House and Museum.
Connecticut's growth in post-recession recovery of travel-related jobs was fourth fastest of all U.S. states, behind Nevada, North Dakota and Ohio, said David Huether, a senior vice president for research at the U.S. Travel Association, a travel trade organization.
In terms of dollars spent by people traveling, Connecticut has been rebounding faster than most of the country, Huether said during an hour-long presentation. One third of leisure trips in Connecticut included a casino visit or some sort of "gaming activity," he said.
Liz Swenson, a member of the Old Saybrook Economic Development Commission, said she believes it is very important for the state to have $15 million in the budget to promote Connecticut.
"I think it's really critical for the Main Street businesses," she said. Additionally, she was able to learn about the ways the state Office of Tourism offers marketing opportunities to towns, which was helpful.
"In Old Saybrook, we're really looking to develop stronger partnerships," Swenson said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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