Thursday, June 11, 2009

Newport and Bristol Tourism groups to merge

At last Wednesday evenings regular Town Council meeting (Mary Parella absent), the council after some deliberation approved a merger between the Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the East Bay Tourism Council to improve local tourism. The Newport Bureau is made up of 6 districts: Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Jamestown, Little Compton and Tiverton. The East Bay Council is made up of three towns: Bristol, Warren and Barrington. When and if the merger is complete, each of the nine towns will have a Town Council appointed representative on the newly formed larger group to be called The Newport and Bristol County Convention and Visitor Bureau. This merger will favor Bristol which ranks third after Newport and Middletown in tourism. Newport has 4000 hotel rooms: Bristol, Warren, Barrington combined have around 80. The money to fund the advertising/marketing comes from the RI State Lodging "bed tax" and as you might guess Newport gets alot more of it than Bristol. (About 2.3M vs $40K) It was stated by James Farley, executive director of Mount Hope Farm, that RI State Representatives Ray Gallison and Doug Gablinski were both in favor of the merger as well as the Downtown Bristol Merchants Association and the Bristol Museums Association. Kristen Swanberg, president of the East Bay Tourism Council, Jim Farley, Halsey Herreshoff, Lloyd Adams all spoke in favor and also noted that timing to get this passed in this years legislative session is important. Evan Smith, executive director of the Newport Bureau, presented the information.
The Warren and Barrington Town Councils must approve the merger before state legislature votes on the bill. (No comments to date have been heard from either the town of Warren or Barrington.)
Note: The East Bay Chamber of Commerce and a group called Destination Bristol (the Heritage Trail connection) are not a part of this merger although their goals are related.

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