Proposal of the Regional Tourism Districts

July 19, 2016

To:      Governor Dannel P. Malloy
           OPM Secretary Benjamin Barnes
           DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith

Re: LEGISLATIVE COMPROMISE POSITION ON TOURISM DISTRICTS

The tourism districts' primary function is to make the incredible variety of tourism assets known to the state, to tourism consumers and to other tourism entities. These Districts have spent decades developing connections among tourism entities -- the local, national and international media and associations that feature tourism, and tourism consumers.  Eliminating them will squander decades of investment in their grass-roots efforts.

The Legislative Tourism Caucus met and the legislators present were very concerned over the “zeroing out” of the Tourism Districts. Unlike the majority of other groups targeted for percentage cuts, for the Districts all funding from the State was to cease immediately. This leaves the Districts with no way to pay staff, meet outstanding obligations and provide the marketing and promotional services on which businesses across the state depend.

Secretary Barnes indicated he would be willing to consider an alternate proposal that would cut, but not zero out, the districts.

Over the past days, the Districts, in conjunction with key legislators, have worked to develop a plan that will help determine in a quantifiable way, what value the Districts bring to statewide tourism, how they can be run even more efficiently and what other resources, in addition to state money, can be used to fund them.

The proposal to the administration is to fund the Districts for the next six months. During that time, the Districts will continue to provide vital marketing and public relations services, including fielding visitor, media and trade inquiries and contributing to the State’s new Tourism Website. The Districts will also assemble a task force made up of the leaders of all three Districts, representative(s) from the State Office of Tourism, tourism related organizations (Lodging, restaurant and other associations) and representatives from tourism related businesses and attractions served throughout the state.

They will take a comprehensive overview of how tourism does and should function throughout the state and make recommendations to the Legislature and the Administration regarding changes and cost efficiencies that will make Connecticut a model of public/private partnership.

We encourage the Administration to agree to meet with us to discuss this plan to keep regional tourism alive in Connecticut.