Tourism busi­ness has $15.5B im­pact on state’s econ­omy

The News-Times - - BUSINESS - By Luther Turmelle [email protected]­medi­

Con­necti­cut’s tourism in­dus­try is prov­ing to be a sil­ver lin­ing in the dark clouds that ap­pear to be gath­er­ing around the state’s econ­omy.

The in­dus­try pro­duced $15.5 bil­lion in to­tal busi­ness sales in

2017, ac­cord­ing to a new eco­nomic study re­leased Mon­day by the Con­necti­cut Of­fice of Tourism. That rep­re­sents a 5.5 per­cent in­crease in to­tal busi­ness sales from

2015, said Randy Fiveash, di­rec­tor of the Con­necti­cut Of­fice of Tourism.

“We do it to ed­u­cate and im­press upon the leg­is­la­ture and the gen­eral pub­lic the value of tourism on the Con­necti­cut econ­omy and its health,” Fiveash said of the study, which is pro­duced ev­ery two years. “This was one of the strong­est years in the past decade.”

The study — which was pro­duced by Tourism Eco­nom­ics, an Ox­ford-based re­search firm — also found that tourism in Con­necti­cut:

⏩ Gen­er­ated $2.2 bil­lion in tax rev­enues, in­clud­ing $960 mil­lion in state/lo­cal taxes, an in­crease of 3 per­cent over 2015.

⏩ Re­sulted in a to­tal of 84,254 jobs directly sup­ported by tourists vis­it­ing the state, the sev­enth con­sec­u­tive year tourism em­ploy­ment has in­creased. That fig­ure in­creased to 123,500 jobs when di­rect and in­di­rect em­ploy­ment were taken into ac­count.

⏩ Is the eighth-largest em­ploy­ment sec­tor in the state.

⏩ Pro­duced a 3.6 per­cent in­crease in tourism spend­ing on recre­ation, food and bev­er­age, lodg­ing, re­tail as well as lo­cal and air trans­porta­tion, the strong­est rate of in­crease since 2011.

David Kooris, deputy com­mis­sioner of the state De­part­ment of Eco­nomic and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment, said tourism benefits “many dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries in all cor­ners of the state and driv­ing tax rev­enues that fund var­i­ous statewide needs.” The state’s Of­fice of Tourism is a di­vi­sion of DECD.

With the Con­necti­cut Gen­eral Assem­bly 2019 leg­isla­tive ses­sion end­ing in early June, the study also pro­vides a re­minder on how the amount the state gov­ern­ment spends to pro­mote tourism has fluc­tu­ated over the years.

Fiveash said the de­part­ment’s cur­rent fis­cal year bud­get is $4.1 mil­lion. Gov. Ned La­mont’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is propos­ing that the state spend $4.3 mil­lion pro­mot­ing tourism in the next fis­cal year, which be­gins in July.

Fiveash took his cur­rent po­si­tion in Novem­ber 2008, shortly be­fore then- Gov. M. Jodi Rell cut the state tourism bud­get from $1 mil­lion to $1. Two years later, un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Gov. Dan­nel Mal­loy, the de­part­ment’s bud­get in­creased to $15 mil­lion, the high­est point it has been since Fiveash be­came tourism di­rec­tor.

“Even though what we have is lower than it has been in the past, we have been very ef­fi­cient in what we do,” he said.

Fiveash’s of­fice ear­lier this year pub­lished its 2018 Tourism Mar­ket­ing Review, which showed key targets that were ex­posed to the state’s dig­i­tal tourism ad­ver­tis­ing vis­ited Con­necti­cut six times more fre­quently and stayed three-and­half times longer than those who had not seen it.

The state’s tourism mar­ket­ing web­site re­ceived an his­toric 5.4 mil­lion vis­its in 2018 and drove more than 3 mil­lion re­fer­rals to tourism des­ti­na­tions, ac­cord­ing to Fiveash. The re­fer­rals fig­ure cov­ers phone calls and clicks on tourism des­ti­na­tions’ web­sites as well as emails to those busi­nesses, he said.

The state’s tourism ef­forts also in­clude search en­gine op­ti­miza­tion, so­cial me­dia and con­tent mar­ket­ing, Fiveash said.

“Our statewide tourism mar­ket­ing is work­ing, but we’re al­ways look­ing for new ways to work with our part­ners to improve and build longer-term aware­ness of Con­necti­cut as a place to visit,” he said “We wel­come in­put from stake­hold­ers across the state as we iden­tify ways to bet­ter share with po­ten­tial vis­i­tors the places and events that we know make Con­necti­cut so great.”

Re­lease of the study’s re­sults comes in ad­vance of this year’s Con­necti­cut Con­fer­ence on Tourism, which is be­ing held Wed­nes­day at the Con­necti­cut Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Hart­ford.

Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

Ham­monas­set Beach State Park in Madi­son is a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for tourism in Con­necti­cut. A re­port re­leased by the state Of­fice of Tourism says the in­dus­try pro­duced $15.5 bil­lion in to­tal busi­ness sales in 2017.

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