Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tourism In Connecticut - The Time is NOW

Tourism is a key economic engine in Connecticut benefiting both residents and state coffers. The fact is tourism is one of the very few areas of the Connecticut budget that generates net revenue for the State. Marketing dollars allocated to generate this revenue are an investment; an investment in Connecticut’s economy and jobs!

Tourism in Connecticut:

  • Generates $11.5 billion in total traveler and tourist spending[i]
  • Generates $1.15 billion in state and local tax revenue
  • Employs 110,775 people (6.5% of state total) in Connecticut
  • Each Connecticut household would pay $950 more in taxes without the tax revenue generated by the tourism industry[ii]
  • Casino gaming revenue supports vital state & local services[iii]
    • $377.8 million (FY09) – contributions to state general fund
    • $ 93.0 million (FY09) – grants to all municipalities statewide

Jobs created by tourism are good jobs, solid jobs, jobs that are both skilled and unskilled, held by people of all ages and are often the 2nd job in a Connecticut family’s household, keeping that family whole and financially secure in tough times. Tourism jobs are home grown and cannot be moved out of state.

Connecticut is very fortunate to have as integral parts of its tourism product a diversity of offerings. Our state boasts the best in arts, history, culture, lodging, attractions, dining, casinos and so much more. Its advantageous location within two hours drive of major population centers, coupled with consumers’ needs to take more trips close to home, makes Connecticut an outstanding tourist destination.

Investing in tourism is investing in Connecticut’s economic future. Tourism affects many vital segments of our economy such as transportation, economic and community development, agriculture and outdoor recreation. Tourism is at the front door of our state’s economy.

It is targeted investment in tourism, however, that must happen in Connecticut by the State along side of private industry. This targeted investment will have a defined return on investment (ROI) in job growth, additional money flowing into Connecticut’s economy by out of state visitors, state revenue increases, and preservation of the arts, culture and natural heritage of Connecticut that makes our state such a great place to live, work and play.

States, regions and cities around the country have recognized the direct relationship between a strong, growing tourism industry and a thriving overall economy.

Our New England neighbors, for example, are each investing millions each year marketing their states, many times targeting Connecticut residents to visit there. All the while, Connecticut has allowed State support of the Statewide Marketing Fund to be reduced to $1.00 (one dollar) per year. In FY ’10 and ‘11, Connecticut became the only state in America to have NO tourism marketing budget. Colorado was the last state to try this by eliminating its tourism marketing function when, in 1993, it cut its marketing/promotion budget to zero. As a result, Colorado’s domestic market share plunged 30% within two years, representing a loss of over $1.4 billion in tourism revenue annually. Over time, the revenue loss increased to well over $2 billion yearly. By the time funds were restored, it took some eight years to return to pre-1993 levels of visitor spending.[iv]

The next Governor of Connecticut must be the leader who saves our state from becoming the next Colorado mistake. He must act now.

The next Governor of Connecticut must:

  • Understand the travel and tourism industry and the vital role it plays in the state’s economy;
  • Be involved and play an active role;
  • Commit to investing in travel and tourism marketing both statewide and regionally in a strategically organized structure where the State and regional tourism districts are partners, instead of competitors, for limited State resources;
  • Commit to investing in transportation options that support a vibrant Connecticut tourism economy. We need to invest in better roads and bridges, expand rail service and focus increased attention on Bradley International Airport as a more competitive airline/travel hub for New England and alternative to New York City gateways. Excellent transportation infrastructure is an important key for tourism investment paying significant dividends;
  • Propose a $15 million budget to market Connecticut tourism. With over $1.15 billion being returned to state and local coffers each year as a result of the tourism industry, this investment is small compared to the return to Connecticut’s economy. Explore ways to match these funds with non-government dollars;
  • Work with the Connecticut State Legislature to ensure adequate levels of funding for tourism.


  • Direct the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, the state’s tourism marketing agency, to develop through internal and external means and input a master plan to chart the course for marketing the state using the increased funds. Additionally, the agency will examine its structure to determine how it can be strengthened both internally and externally;
  • As a part of the master plan, develop recommendations of how best to implement a public/private funding model for State government tourism marketing. This type of model is used widely around the country, as well as privately in Connecticut, and can be an effective model for Connecticut;
  • Engage regional tourism districts, local chambers of commerce, convention and visitors bureaus and other key organizations as partners for marketing Connecticut;
  • Grow regional marketing funding as statewide marketing funding is bolstered.

Conclusion - Tourism in Connecticut:

  • Generates net revenue to the state’s economy;
  • Creates jobs – homegrown jobs that cannot be moved out of Connecticut;
  • Provides revenue for the State budget to help pay for other vital state social services which are non-revenue producing;
  • Works as a catalyst for economic and community development, agriculture growth, transportation improvements and preservation of the environment;
  • Creates a positive image and presents Connecticut as a great place to live, work and play.

Tourism is essential to Connecticut’s future. It is an integral part of our economy and our everyday life touching every person in the state in some way. Tourism and the revenue and jobs created because of it can, and will, help get Connecticut out of its budget deficit problems in the short term and help insure positive economic health in the future.

Tourism funding not only is the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. The time is now!

[i] UCONN Center for Economic Analysis 2006 (includes direct, indirect & induced)

[ii] U.S. Travel Association, April 2010

[iii] Connecticut Office of Policy & Management

[iv] “The Rise & Fall of Colorado Tourism,” Longwoods International, 2009

Friday, September 17, 2010

Amazing Mazes Beckon Autumn Visitors to Western Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills and Fairfield County

The mazes are amazing. Imagine acres of tall corn cut into twisting paths in whimsical shapes from crossword puzzles to bumblebees. Finding your way amidst these mazes of maize is a fun-filled adventure for all ages at four beautiful family farms in western Connecticut. Located in Litchfield and Fairfield Counties, the farms also offer hayrides, animals for petting, and apples and pumpkins ripe for picking to make for a perfect fall weekend outing.

Ellsworth Hill Farm in Sharon may take the prize for originality this season with a crossword puzzle maze covering four acres. Pick-your-own apples is another favorite activity at this berry farm and orchard. On hayrides at Ellsworth Hill “Farmer Mike” shows off the glowing foliage-covered hills of northwestern Connecticut and tells about the fruit varieties he grows on the farm.

One of the most elaborate maze designs is the bumblebee at Plaskos Farm in Trumbull. Plaskos is known for the imaginative designs cut each year through four acres of ten-foot-high corn. Crazy Cows, Spider Webs, and Lady Liberty are among the past creations. The twisty mazes provide some 15 miles of trails, but frequent escape hatches mean everyone can choose their own distance. Once again, hayrides are a scenic way to the fields.

Littlest guests will find a new treat this year at March Farm in Bethlehem, where a new Sunflower Maze designed for children is ready for action along with the traditional five-acre corn maze. This year’s main maze theme is designed to teach the value of composting. Along with the chance to pick your own apples, treats at this family-friendly farm include hayrides, and an animal farm where pygmy goats, lambs and llamas can be visited. An expanded Hayloft Playscape invites youngsters to enjoy a mini-hay loft, school and farmhouse, slides, a climbing wall and a tractor-themed sand play area.

Families also enjoy the six-acre corn maze in a unique triangle shape and the four-acre pumpkin patch awaiting visitors to Castle Hill Farm in Newtown. As an added treat, hayrides at Castle Hill bring visitors through a stream to the corn and pumpkin fields. Farm animals for petting and pony rides provide more treats for youngsters.

All of the mazes are open weekends through October, some into November. For exact hours and admission fees, check with each farm listed below or contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, www.visitwesternct.com.


Castle Hill Farm 40 Sugar Lane, Newtown, 203-426-5487, www.castlehillfarm.biz

Ellsworth Hill Farm, 461 Cornwall Bridge Road (Route 4), Sharon, www.ellsworthfarm.com

March Farm, 160 Munger Lane, Bethlehem, 203-266-7721, www.marchfarms.com

Plaskos Farm, 670 Daniels Farm Road, Trumbull, 203-268-2716, www.plaskosfarm.com