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Tourism Industry Skeptical of State Changes
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State officials sought to reassure tourism industry professionals at a recent business breakfast about the Governor’s plans to reorganize Connecticut’s marketing efforts. But many in the sector are waiting to see how the bottom line is affected. 

The recent budget proposals by Governor Rell would put the Commission on Culture and Tourism under the jurisdiction of the Department of Economic and Community Development. Both the DECD commissioner, Joan McDonald, and Karen Senich, who heads up culture and tourism spoke at the meeting organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.  MacDonald says the move is intended to strengthen the state’s response. 

"This is about making our business services unified and customer driven. We are in a global marketplace and we need to be ready and adaptable for however the economy takes shape over the next five, ten and fifteen years."

Senich said her mission would be business as usual under any new structure, and she told the audience, her department at least recognizes that a $14b dollar industry with 170,000 jobs should have some clout.

"The economic impact of culture and tourism, and that includes tourism, it includes the arts, it includes preservation and historical societies, and it includes film, is really tremendous for the state of Connecticut.  Something that is sometimes overlooked as being that economic driver." 

Not everyone in the audience was impressed though. Joyce Resnikoff is part owner of Olde Mistick Village, and one of the directors of the Mystic Coast & Country travel association.  She says she believes tourism has been shortchanged under the current commission.

"I didn’t hear anything new – it’s status quo until they pass the budget. Tourism took a back seat.  It was the arts, in my estimation and historical sites.  But you have to promote – tourism is to promote, to bring people here, and that didn’t get it, in the last four or five years." 

Rell’s proposals also made significant cuts in the funding for the state’s tourism districts, and Resnikoff and many others in the audience said they are still uncertain about their future until a budget is finalized and they can see just how much the state is willing to spend to promote Connecticut as a destination.