State tourism plan would replace regional districts

State tourism officials are recommending today that the state fund regional tourism marketing efforts through grants that would be administered by the Connecticut Tourism Advisory Council.

The council would effectively replace the boards that now oversee the state’s three regional tourism districts, which would be eliminated under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

The spending plan calls for $15 million for tourism marketing in each of the two years.

Randy Fiveash, director of the state Office of Tourism, unveiled the state’s “plan to improve regional tourism marketing” at a morning meeting with local tourism operators at the Hilton Mystic.

Ed Dombroskas, executive director of the Eastern Regional Tourism District, which the governor’s budget proposal would eliminate, said Fiveash’s announcement took him by surprise.

“Despite a number of requests to meet with the office, but they haven’t met with us in the last 18 months,” Dombroskas said. “I’m surprised they would put out such a plan for funding regional marketing when they haven’t used the resources we have.” 

Under the plan, any marketing efforts planned and funded by the existing tourism districts for the summer and fall of 2013 would be allowed to run. The districts, currently facing shutdowns July 1, would continue to operate until the end of the year. 

The plan calls for a focus on “branding opportunities” in five areas already promoted by the state as well as a sixth, the so-called “Quiet Corner” in the northeastern part of Connecticut. That area is now part of Eastern Regional Tourism District, commonly referred to as “Mystic Country.”

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