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Tourism district seeks to promote public-private partnerships

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Regional tourism officials recently announced that they’re itching to distribute $180,000 in state money to public-private partnerships willing to promote areas and attractions in eastern Connecticut.

“We want people to know we’re accepting applications for grants,” said Chris Regan, chairman of the Eastern Regional Tourism District’s Marketing Committee. “We’re hoping to get dollars out there as quick as we can. ... Especially with (COVID-19), this is a lifeline.”

The idea behind the 2020 Regional Marketing Partnership Program is to get businesses, municipalities and nonprofits to collaborate, Regan said. No individual entities need apply.

Partnerships can be awarded up to $25,000, with a 2-to-1 match for the first $5,000 they contribute. The next $15,000 they contribute will be evenly matched.

“The funds are to market an area,” Regan said. “We want businesses and communities to come together. In Mystic, for example, Stonington and Groton interests would have to come together. In New London, all the businesses — retail, restaurants, marinas, cultural attractions — could come together to promote the area as a whole.”

“In Norwich, you could get the restaurants and retail together,” he said. “Right now, there’s no mechanism for them to come together. Everybody’s talking individually, which is ineffective. It has to be collaborative.”

An attraction like the Air Line State Park Trail, which winds for 57 miles through northeastern Connecticut, is another example of an attraction that should be advertised through a partnership of “stakeholders,” Regan said.

He recalled that a year ago, without state support, Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic Aquarium, Olde Mistick Village and a collection of downtown Mystic businesses each contributed $25,000 to a marketing campaign dubbed “Sea Mystic.”

“We want to get tourists here for more than one or two days, maybe four or five,” Regan said.

If the approach is successful in the Eastern Regional Tourism District, which encompasses 41 cities and towns, the state Office of Tourism likely will employ it in the Central and Western regional tourism districts, as well, Regan said.

Regan’s committee will select program participants on a rolling basis through Oct. 31, and will have the option to extend the program through the holiday season. Applicants should submit plans for consideration — in PDF format — to the Waterford-based Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, which is providing the tourism district with administrative support. Plans should include a full project description, timeline, measurable goals and a proposed budget.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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