• Providence Restaurant Weeks began seven years ago as a marketing initiative designed to promote local restaurants. Today, the program runs twice a year and encompasses nearly 100 restaurants from across the state.

• Newport has developed a comprehensive and successful marketing effort to brand itself as a premier “destination-wedding” location.

• The Blackstone Valley has created original programs such as the Polar Express and the popular Riverboat Explorer tours.

• South County has developed a campaign that highlights its rich history and seaside beauty.

• Warwick successfully markets itself as “the Crossroads of Southern New England,” a transportation hub.

• And Block Island has partnered with a local artist on an innovative promotion aimed at steering visitors to the island’s extraordinary natural resources.

These are just a few examples of the geographically specific programming being done at the regional level, programs that not only benefit visitors but also greatly enhance the quality of life that Rhode Island residents enjoy.

Additionally, both Providence/Warwick and Newport have strong meeting and convention sales and marketing programs, which are not typically handled at the statewide level. Attracting this lucrative business to the state in an extremely competitive national landscape requires an in-depth knowledge of both the meetings industry and how local product offerings match the requirements of individual planners.

While consolidation of tourism agencies may seem like a logical cost-cutting measure, it will weaken a successful, productive system and decimate product development and programming that has been built over years of hard work. It will hurt the state’s businesses and – ultimately – the Rhode Island taxpayer.

In order to achieve maximum success we need to ensure adequate funding for a statewide branding effort while maintaining the successful regional tourism system that currently exists. •


Martha Sheridan is the president and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau.