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A successful trade mission to Australia has opened doors of opportunity for eastern Connecticut tourism and the state's defense and aerospace industries. The recent trip to the land of one of America's most prominent allies has helped create a wealth of goodwill that no doubt will translate into positive economic results for many interests throughout our region, as well as the rest of Connecticut.
From a tourism standpoint, the mission put eastern Connecticut, including Mystic Country, on the map for Australians, including more than 80 group tour operators. The largest tour group, Scenic Tours, now plans a two-day stopover in the Mystic region starting next year.
A highlight of the trip was a well-attended exposition titled "The Taste and Sights of Connecticut." It took place at the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney. Clearly, a foundation has been established to encourage tourists to visit eastern Connecticut. An Australian publication, "Out and About with Kids," will feature the destination for families as they plan their vacations.
Promotional brochures and other literature were presented to tour operators and follow-up meetings were arranged.
From a defense industry standpoint, an example of the mission's success is that the Mystic area has been chosen as the site for the first International Aerospace and Defense Summit that has been organized by the Connecticut District Export Council, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Congressman Joe Courtney. Participating in the conference will be companies from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and France.
Twenty people, including myself, comprised the delegation to Australia. Among those attending were officials from General Dynamics Electric Boat and Mystic Aquarium.
Representing the 1,600 member businesses of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and the Greater Mystic Visitor's Bureau, I was able to describe the beauty of our region as well as its many attractions, including destinations in Mystic Country. I traveled to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Newcastle and Wollongong.
The trade mission was initiated by Congressman Courtney and organized by Anne Evans, district director of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The U.S. Consulate Commercial offices in Sydney also supported the initiative.
Australians welcomed us with open arms. I discovered that in the "land down under," there is a natural fondness for Americans, an ally in times of both peace and war. I was pleased to learn that large numbers of Australians have a yearning to visit the United States and I am confident we made a compelling case that Connecticut would be a highlight of any visit to our country.
From the defense and aerospace perspective, there is a realization that essential American products are in demand worldwide due to their innovation and quality. Representatives of the defense industry made contacts that undoubtedly will pay dividends down the road in terms of exporting both product and knowledge. The Department of Commerce arranged both group and one-on-one meetings for those of similar interests in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Newcastle.
I was pleased to see that those in the Connecticut food and beverage business had opportunities to make their menu items available to tour managers and others. Among those were Jake's Wayback Burgers, Munson's Chocolates, the Connecticut Maple Syrup Producers Association, as well as local wineries.
Also, representatives of Mystic Aquarium had the opportunity to visit three Australian aquariums with the goal of selling the JASON Learning Project, which is headquartered in Mystic.
All and all, I consider the trade mission to have been a rousing success. Our delegation made essential contacts in both formal and informal settings. We consider the Australian people to be our friends and it's pleasing to see that they view us the same way. Only good can come from that.
Tony Sheridan is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.