Connecticut's Tourism District Funding Eliminated

Government and Politics

July 8, 2016


Governor Malloy’s recent decision eliminating all funding for the state’s three regional tourism districts will have devastating repercussions on Connecticut’s tourism industry, the hundreds of tourism-related businesses, and the tens of thousands of tourism jobs. There is great concern throughout the State’s tourism industry that eliminating the Districts will not only damage Connecticut’s ability to attract visitors it will also substantially decrease the millions of tourism dollars currently generated annually for our state. 

Significantly, this decision makes Connecticut the only state in the U.S. without publicly funded regional tourism entities in conjunction with a State Office of Tourism.  More significantly, the elimination of the Districts puts the State’s investment in its new Website at risk since its management, as much else in the State Tourism Office including representation at National trade shows, social media outreach and Media visits relies on the work of the Districts.

The Tourism Caucus of State legislators will hold a special meeting this Friday, July 8 at 10 a.m. in Room 1C of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) to gather information about the Governor’s elimination of the districts’ funding.

The three regional tourism districts – the Central Regional Tourism District, Western Regional Tourism District, and Eastern Regional Tourism Districts focus their efforts on marketing the hundreds of local tourism entities in the towns they serve, including attractions, casinos, restaurants, hotels, motels, B&B campgrounds, sports venues, recreation, arts, heritage and cultural destinations and events. They are the most knowledgeable experts about their region’s tourism assets and appeal and have cultivated strong relationships with potential visitors, domestic and international, group tour operators and travel media for more than thirty years. The three offices’ funding comes from the State’s General Fund.

Betty Cordellos, owner of Connection Tours notes, “As a niche tourism business owner since 1997, I rely on the B2B pipeline that the Bureau provides to reach our target audiences and markets across the country. It’s a valuable and free resource for attracting new business that I don’t have staff or budget to reach.”

The three districts are independent but they work closely with the State Office of Tourism and with each other and provide that office with resources and regional and local expertise. The State Office of Tourism has a different funding source – directly through the Connecticut State Department of Economic & Community Development.

“The Upper Housatonic National Heritage Area works closely with the Western Connecticut Tourism District; they promote important regional programs including the Western New England Greenway (bikeway) and the annual Heritage Walks”, said Dan Bolognani, Executive Director of the Upper Housatonic Heritage Area.  “The Bureau provides critical support for these important economic drivers, and has been an invaluable partner in program development.”

Western Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau was formed as an economic driver in 1981 to provide tourism marketing representation to all municipalities and to promote Connecticut as a state tourism destination. The Western CT Tourism District promotes tourism businesses in Litchfield Hills and Fairfield County – both large and small – to bring visitors to the region.  The result in increased visitation has been more revenue from hotel taxes and local visitor spending that benefit local attractions, accommodations, restaurants and related businesses, as well as the State’s General Fund.  Directly and indirectly, the livelihoods of many of our residents derive from tourism related visitation.

“Eliminating Regional Tourism will be devastating to smaller non-profit organizations,” said Louise L. Demars, Executive Director of the New England Carousel Museum.  We count on the regional tourism offices to represent us, helping us to market our unique locations and offerings. Trying to compete with the "big boys" on the State level has proven unsuccessful in the past.   Many will get lost among larger attractions.  Why would the State eliminate the one thing that actually makes money for the State?  Regional Tourism does that while helping to market and support the wonderful entities that make Connecticut special.” 
Western Connecticut Tourism District represents 63 towns and cities in the western third of the state from Fairfield County up to the Massachusetts line in the Litchfield Hills. Due to the elimination of funds the bureau will no longer provide the following established and effective Specialized Regional Programs that are exclusive to the area and not performed by Office of Tourism - making CT the only State in the USA without Regional Tourism Marketing. Program elimination includes:

Customized Regional Blogs -Google, Wordpress, National Examiner, Axes.com, Patch, Hearst. Blog views 2,680,970 (excluding stats for Examiner, Patch and Hearst)

Regional Website Database Maintenance, Updates and Promotions: Website hits: 59,972, 241. (20% growth)

Social Media Postings to thousands of organic followers promoting area events (Twitter -12.4 K, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram).

Customized Regional Press Releases and Media Visits generating over $100,000 free media pick up for area businesses and attractions. Over 100 travel writers generating articles for Western CT including AAA Magazines, Boston Globe, New York Times, Yankee Magazine, Carolina Woman, Travel 50 and Beyond, Just Luxe etc.

Regional Expertise and Direct Contact with Consumers – Responds to more than 50,000 requests annually for regional brochures including the 168 page Unwind publication that is defrayed by regional businesses and attractions.

Award Winning Regional Publication of 30 years will be discontinued in 2017 due to budget elimination.

Customized Regional Newsletter – Monthly to over 30,000 opt in subscribers.

Public Relations Assistance/Advertorials/Online Press Room/Image Database  – press releases, blogs and media visits to promote local businesses and attractions

Research – Provides economic impact surveying and research for events in a community including demographics to help improve and grow area events. Develop survey questions.  Analysis and comprehensive report issued for each event. In progress: Captains Cove, Weekend in Norfolk, Thomaston Opera House, Goshen Stampede.

Group Tour Workshops- Half-day workshop to educate and instruct and assist regional attractions and businesses concerning the economics and dynamics of attracting and keeping group business. Includes CD/templates.

Exclusive Regional Representation at Group Tour Trade Shows – National Tour Association, American Bus Association, 130 leads and 20 meeting requests for proposals, New Jersey Motor Coach, Ontario Motor Coach, International Pow Wow.

Group Tour Assessment – Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of area businesses in regard to attracting group tour business.  Produce a report and group tour contacts that are appropriate for the venue.

Event Research, Management and Services  - Assist with request for proposals, event assessment to determine viability, vendor list, definition of event structure and methodology, assistance in marketing, public relations, and operations.  Managed and assisted 14 events in region last year.

Event Planning Workshops – Half-day workshop to instruct how to effectively plans and manages events that include CD and templates.

B2B Networking and Marketing Meetings in Litchfield Hills and Fairfield County to improve communication, outreach and to better understand the regional constituents.

Loss of Thousands of Regional Volunteers that have served tourism in their communities.

About the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau

Publically funded destination marketing organization that serves at the primary tourism marketing organization for Fairfield County and Litchfield Hills.  The bureau represents thousands of tourism related businesses in the region that depend on the marketing and public relations programs of the area.

The Western District represents the following towns and cities: Ansonia, Barkhamsted, Beacon Falls, Bethel, Bethlehem, Bridgeport, Bridgewater, Bristol, Brookfield, Burlington, Canaan, Colebrook, Cornwall, Danbury, Darien, Derby, Easton, Fairfield, (add coma) Goshen, Greenwich, Hartland, Harwinton, Kent, Litchfield, Middlebury, Monroe, Morris, Naugatuck, New Canaan, Norwalk, New Fairfield, New Hartford, New Milford, Newtown, Norfolk, North Canaan, Oxford, Plymouth, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Roxbury, Salisbury, Seymour, Shelton, Sharon, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Thomaston, Torrington, Trumbull, Warren, Washington, Waterbury, Watertown, Weston, Westport, Wilton, Winchester, Wolcott and Woodbury.

http://www.visitwesternct.com