Connecticut Tourism Coalition preparing for legislative debate

Members of the Connecticut Tourism Coalition are meeting Wednesday in Essex to discuss the state of the tourism industry. 

High on the list of agenda items is state funding for tourism promotion.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration eliminated funding for the state's three regional tourism districts at the end of the previous fiscal year, June 30, and state support for statewide tourism promotion has dwindled from $15 million to $6.4 million over the last five years.

The coalition, a year-old alliance of tourism industry advocates, seeks a dedicated source of funding for tourism.

A bill introduced by state Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, and another introduced by state Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, and Rep. Laura Hoydick, R-Stratford, would set aside a portion of the revenue generated by the state's hotel occupancy tax to fund tourism marketing and the regional districts, respectively.

“Other states understand that when you spend a dollar on tourism, you get three dollars back,” Stephen Tagliatela, president of the coalition and managing member of the Saybrook Point Inn, Marina & Spa, said Tuesday. “New York has increased its tourism budget from $15 million to $55 million and Rhode Island’s gone from $700,000 to $5 million. They’re stealing our customers.”

Tagliatela said the coalition has yet to take an official position on any of the proposed tourism-related bills.

Tim Sullivan, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, which oversees tourism, will address the coalition at Wednesday’s meeting. Formica, founder and co-chairman of the legislature’s tourism caucus, and Ed Dombroskas, executive director of the Eastern Regional Tourism District, also are expected to attend.

The coalition is distinct from the recently formed Greater Mystic Tourism Marketing Committee, a unit of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

“We’re really focused on getting our legislators to understand the importance of tourism,” Tagliatela said. “We’re not going to get involved in fulfillment or advertising. We don’t have a paid staff or anything like that. We’re about education.”

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