May 14, 2018
Q&A

CT’s tourism industry readies for busy season

Randy Fiveash Director, Connecticut Office of Tourism

Q&A talks with Randy Fiveash, director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism.

Q. As we march toward the spring and summer tourism seasons, is there anything new happening within Connecticut's tourism industry or how the state intends to help promote the industry?

A. Despite reductions to the statewide tourism marketing budget, our industry continues to work together to grow the tourism business for Connecticut — which now contributes $14.7 billion in business sales, generates $1.7 billion in tax revenues and supports nearly 83,000 direct jobs and 121,000 indirect jobs.

Right now, we're about to launch our spring/summer marketing campaign. This year, that includes targeted digital advertising, search marketing, content marketing, email, social media and public relations — an integrated marketing mix that's proven to be effective for us. We're also putting a greater emphasis on video marketing as well as returning to out-of-home advertising, including placements in the highly trafficked areas of Boston and New York.

Many of those tactics drive interested travelers to the state's official tourism website: www.CTvisit.com. The website, which features over 4,000 attractions, hotels/B&Bs, restaurants, events and cities and towns, received nearly 5 million visits and generated over 3.2 million leads for partners last year.

Through our regional marketing program, we've also been working even more closely with local organizations across the state. Our goal is to make sure every tourism-related business in Connecticut capitalizes on the state's existing broad array of marketing initiatives.

Q. What are the driving factors (economic and otherwise) that determine whether or not this will be a good summer (financially and otherwise) for the state's tourism industry?

A. Many factors can impact travel, including consumer confidence, gas prices and weather, so we focus on what we can control. That includes focusing our marketing efforts on the most efficient and effective ways to maximize the reach of our message and inspire visitation, arming our partners with free resources and education, and working collaboratively to promote the state.

This activity drives economic impact, including traveler spending and hotel tax revenues, and contributes to the individual success of attractions. And thanks to Connecticut's ideal size, when one tourism partner benefits, others nearby do, too.

Q. State tourism funding has been an issue in recent years given Connecticut's budget woes. Where do things stand right now?

A. The statewide tourism marketing budget has followed a downward trend since 2012, when it was $15 million. This fiscal year, the budget is $6.4 million.

These funds are used to generate greater awareness for Connecticut as a prime New England destination, and drive visitation to and through the state.

In order to compete for visitors, we need a marketing budget that, year over year, keeps us in the consideration set of consumers.

Q. Most people in the state know of the major tourist attractions like Mystic Seaport, the Connecticut casinos, minor league baseball and our coastline beach areas. What are some hidden gems that might get overlooked, particularly by those planning a staycation?

A. Where do I begin? Part of what makes Connecticut so unique is the diverse mix of thousands of attractions and hidden gems, from the historic and cultural to the relaxing and nature-focused.

For example, travelers can find hidden treasures along the Connecticut Art Trail, which now includes 21 world-class museums and historic sites, Connecticut Antiques Trail and Connecticut Beer and Wine trails. Or, visit one of the 169 towns, each with something unique to offer. There's also no shortage of outdoor adventure, relaxation and culinary experiences to be had — go for a llama hike, try a meditative retreat or shuck your own oysters.

The state tourism website — www.CTvisit.com — has hundreds of suggested travel itineraries and articles, a calendar of events, and now more information about cities, all to help make it easier to find hidden gems and plan a staycation.

In fact, the state's wealth of hidden gems is one reason the Office of Tourism established Connecticut Open House Day.

The day-long event encourages residents to discover the arts, history and cultural attractions in their own "backyard." More than 200 attractions and other tourism partners have already signed up to participate this year by offering discounted or free admission and special offers. Open House Day is Saturday, June 9.

Q. How many attractions do you promote on an annual basis?

In 2017 alone, we specifically promoted almost 2,000 businesses.

A. While we've had the opportunity to meet and speak with thousands of partners, there are still many we don't know. And we can't help promote them if we don't know about them. So please, get in touch with us, and create a free listing page on www.CTvisit.com.

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