Early returns in online voting for the state's favorite town show southeastern Connecticut locales are garnering strong support, as might be expected.
After all, tourism officials are always saying they consider the region the state's tourism hub.
As of early Friday afternoon, Niantic topped the "Fan-Favorite: Town" voting on the state tourism office's Facebook page. Mystic was No. 2, New London No. 9.
The balloting, part of the latest phase of the "still revolutionary" marketing campaign launched a year ago, began April 9 and will conclude May 15. The winning town will be announced May 21 at the annual Connecticut Conference on Tourism at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.
State tourism officials intent on stoking the campaign's momentum believe the online voting and social media in general are key ingredients of the promotional effort.
"From our standpoint, they're a great way to market what's great about our towns," Randy Fiveash, director of the tourism office, said Friday in a phone interview.
"Last year, we did our first fan-favorite campaign to pick a destination and we got a lot of people talking about it on Twitter and Facebook," Fiveash said. "What we found is that there was so much pride within the towns and boroughs. ... There's a town-centricness to Connecticut. We decided we ought to do a town campaign to play up on that pride."
The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford was the top vote-getter in last year's balloting for favorite tourist destination.
Visitors to the Visit Connecticut Facebook page can vote once a day for the town that "most embodies the spirit of the state's brand ... by being a home for original ideas, inspiration and innovation." Voters can also register a click for a business, destination or attraction within their favorite town. Each vote counts as an entry in a drawing for a Connecticut getaway package.
The winning locale will be the subject of a two-minute promotional video that will air on the state's tourism website, www.CTvisit.com, and social media sites. The top 10 vote-getters will get promotional support from the state, including prominent mentions in the tourism office's 2014 guide.
"That's a pretty big deal," Fiveash said.
As of Friday, the other New London County locales in the top 50 were: Old Mystic (16), Groton (17), East Lyme (30), Old Lyme (33), Ledyard (38), Baltic (39), Stonington (42), Stonington Village (45) and Colchester (48).