Tourism budget uncertain as businesses start season

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Connecticut’s budget troubles could mean less money for promoting tourism. That was a big concern at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism held today in Hartford. When Governor Dannel Malloy did speak, he stayed away from talking about budget numbers.

Connecticut’s tourism industry is gearing up for summer with a day-long conference. It’s an industry worth 14 billion dollars, according to the state Economic and Community Development Director, Catherine Smith.

“It is in fact leading many of our other sectors in terms of job creation over the last several years,” according to Smith

In the eastern part of the state, tourism is the driving economic force.

“We are very dependent on tourism and the tourism dollars,” said Ed Dombroskas, Executive Directory of the Eastern Regional Tourism District. “A good season means a good economy, and a bad season means a not so good year.”

So Dombroskas was worried this year when Governor Malloy’s proposed budget cut money for tourism promotion.

“One of the things is the funding for the regional tourism districts,” according to Dombroskas. “We think it’s fundamentally important that the regional tourism districts exist and work with the state.”

A later budget from the legislature restored the districts, but neither budget is final yet. When Governor Malloy addressed this room full of tourism professionals, there was no mention of any cuts.

“I know that business has been tough,” Malloy said from the podium, “and that you are, by your natures, survivors and certainly hard workers, but we get it and we’re trying to forge this new and better relationship.”

One thing you definitely will see this year is a new advertising campaign for the state. It involved a little paired word play. “Pause” in a museum, “Play” the slot machines. “By land” with a picture of a museum next to “By sea” featuring the Mystic Seaport. They call it the yin and yang approach.

“It makes the point of making it really clear to our consumers where and how they can get great experiences in the state,” said Smith

The Governor indicated he continues to support museums, parks, and the rest of the big tourism industry,

“When we take the time to tell the story of Connecticut we know we have a winning story to tell,” Malloy said.

With no budget yet, however, we just don’t know how much money there will be to tell the story.

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