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Malloy makes renewed pitch for pitching state tourism

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published May 18. 2012 4:00AM

Hartford - Three days after the unveiling of Connecticut's new branding campaign, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy stoked his commitment to the tourism and hospitality industry Thursday while speaking at the Connecticut Conference on Tourism.

"We are in the process of moving forward in a serious way for the first time in a long time," Malloy told a luncheon crowd during the all-day event at the Connecticut Convention Center. With tens of millions of state dollars committed to tourism promotion this fiscal year and next, he pledged more of the same "the year after that and the year after that."

"We will be building it into our revenue projections," the governor said.

On Monday, tourism officials took the wraps off "Connecticut, Still Revolutionary," a branding campaign that links the state's rich history to its reputation for innovation in such areas as science, higher education and the arts.

For more than two decades, the state refused to exploit tourism's proven ability to grow the economy, Malloy said, with the result that the sector has underperformed. And still it generates $11.5 billion a year in travelers' spending and $1.2 billion in state and local tax revenue, according to the University of Connecticut's Center for Economic Analysis. It's responsible for more than 110,000 jobs.

While Thursday's keynote speaker, Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group, branding consultants who worked on the Connecticut campaign, suggested the state could nearly double the $11.5 billion figure, Malloy said even much more modest gains would pay huge dividends.

"Imagine if we could get it to $12.5 million, $13.5 million, $14.5 million," he said. "It would put much more money in people's pockets."

Malloy recalled that he had worked as an ad-agency researcher on the highly successful "I Love New York" branding campaign credited with helping to reverse New York City's fortunes. "It had a catchy tune and a catchy story, and they told it over and over and over again," he said.

The governor said he was tired of watching tourism offices in other states make a pitch for Connecticut residents. "If I see another Cape Cod ad, I'm going to get sick," he said.

Taylor discussed the results of an annual survey of affluence and spending trends among the country's wealthiest households. He said that as much as $6 trillion to $7 trillion that has been stashed in savings and investment accounts could start circulating in late 2013 or 2014 and that Connecticut "has an obligation to ask: 'What's our piece of that action?'"

The recession has caused families to spend more time together and to place greater value on that time, Taylor said. "They're not buying a car, redoing the kitchen, landscaping or searching for a new job. They're traveling together and experiencing ... what?"

He said the typical family's biggest discretionary item is its vacation.

Connecticut, then, is perhaps uniquely suited to provide families with the kind of "original content" they need to provide them with things to talk about - with experiences, with memories, Taylor said. The state's problem, he said, is that it remains largely unknown.

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