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Mystic tourism anchors dig into their own pockets

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Mystic — Frustrated by years of flagging state support and with the spring season nearing, Mystic’s tourism anchors announced Wednesday the launch of “Sea Mystic,” a marketing campaign funded with their own money.

Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic Aquarium, Olde Mistick Village and a collection of downtown Mystic businesses each have contributed $25,000 for the initial $100,000 investment in the initiative, which will begin with billboard advertising on Interstates 95 and 91.

During April, May and June, rotating “Sea Mystic” ads will appear on a half-dozen billboards targeting inbound visitors, including two in the Stamford area, one in Fairfield, one in New Haven and two in Springfield, Mass. The ads in New Haven will appear on a billboard near the highly visible Ikea home furnishings store at the intersection of the interstates, according to Maria Miranda, whose Norwich-based agency, Miranda Creative, is handling the campaign.

Business owners, tourism advocates and elected officials attended Wednesday’s announcement, which took place at Mystic Seaport Museum’s Thompson Exhibition Building.

“For too many years, due to the statewide budget crisis, inconsistent funding of the tourism districts and the resulting confusion as to who was driving the marketing of this region, the promotion of the Mystic brand has been insufficient,” said Joyce Resnikoff, owner of the Olde Mistick Village shopping area. “While we know that these initial funds will not completely resolve the issues, we hope to inspire other public/private partnerships and to encourage our peers to step forward to contribute to the solution.”

Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget proposal for the next two fiscal years calls for maintaining funding for statewide and regional tourism promotion at current levels, which many in the local tourism realm see as woefully inadequate.

Describing Mystic and its attractions as “the driving force” behind tourism in Connecticut, Chris Regan, founder of Regan Enterprises, said the goal is to grow funding for the “Sea Mystic” campaign to $250,000 to $300,000. Matching funds from public sources could produce a budget of a half-million dollars or more, he said.

“We need to ensure our classic brand is not lost,” said Stephen White, president and chief executive officer of Mystic Seaport Museum.

The campaign will include digital advertising and a new online domain name — SeaMystic.com — that will redirect visitors to the former Mystic.org website, which provides information about the Mystic Pass Card for discounted admission to Mystic Seaport Museum and Mystic Aquarium.

Matt Beaudoin, owner of Mystic Knotwork, represented the “little merchants” who contributed to the campaign, all of whom he said benefit from Mystic's promotion as a tourism destination.

White, Regan, Beaudoin and Stephen Coan, president and CEO of the Sea Research Foundation, Mystic Aquarium’s parent, posed with oversized checks made out to the Greater Mystic Chamber Foundation, the initiative's fiduciary partner.

Also unveiled was a banner that will hang at the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce’s office and visitor center. It reads: “Sea Mystic. Start Here.”

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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