GREENWICH, Conn. -- In the wake of a series of a series of statewide tourism marketing budget cuts, state Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151) questioned Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes during the July meeting of the legislature’s Tourism Caucus in Hartford.
Camillo, who represents Greenwich in the General Assembly, has expressed skepticism that slashing Connecticut’s tourism funding will stem the tide of the state’s economic woes.
“In light of recent budget deficits and the need for our state to live within its means, I still feel that these cuts are shortsighted and will end up having a negative impact on the state’s economy,” Camillo said. “Tourism has been a proven economic driver for Connecticut’s economy and is one of the few places where our return on investment is significant.”
In an effort to control a ballooning state budget deficit, Governor Dannel P. Malloy recently cut 1 percent from the state’s $6.5 million tourism marketing budget, and another $1.1 million earmarked for Connecticut’s tourism districts.
Another $128,000 set to be used for tourism promotion was slashed, as well.
According to Barnes, the tourism marketing budget was recently funded with $15 million, but has been reduced by both legislative action and the governor’s rescissions.
According to Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development, 6.7 million visitors – a 12 percent increase from 2014 – visited Connecticut in 2015, with a majority, 2.7 million, visiting during the summer and bringing in the most revenue through lodging.
The most popular purpose for visiting, cited by 50 percent of travelers, was for shopping, with entertainment at 35 percent and outdoor recreation at 20 percent coming in just behind.
In addition, statistics show that tourists regularly engage in gaming, dining and visits to the beach.
Connecticut’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences also have great potential in contributing to tourism.
In 2014, cultural entertainment had a $653 million economic impact on the state, generating $59 million for local and state government, and supporting more than 18,000 jobs.
The Tourism Caucus has met regularly since its establishment in early April, recently hosting the Department of Transportation to discuss enhancing the ability of tourists to locate travel destinations in Connecticut.