When Marketing Isn’t a High Priority
A familiar theme pops up all over the place, if you’re looking for it. Consider the advice of consultants that the tourism division of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) hired to help Rhode Island with its efforts in that area:
The consultants learned that 70 percent of the state’s visitors come from just five states — Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. However, of 1,100 people they surveyed, respondents were more likely to associate destination themes like “charming, quiet, peaceful, relaxing and friendly” with other states that compete for the same visitors.
Rhode Island may be losing visitors to places like Vermont and Maine, the consultants said, because other states spend far more to promote their own tourist attractions than Rhode Island does.
With a tourism budget of $720,000 annually, Rhode Island spends less than 10 percent of what the average state spends promoting tourism, says Mark G. Brodeur, director of the state’s tourism division. That average, he says, is $11 million.
I’m not convinced that public resources are best spent on marketing campaigns, and I’d point out that Rhode Island has only 17% of the population of the average state. The reality is, however, that even if we adjust the perspective to say that Rhode Island should be spending twice as much (rather than ten times as much) on tourism, the state already taxes its residents too vigorously. We cannot fund such things as tourism marketing, because we’re spending too much money on other things — like labor costs, giveaways, and the support of public corruption.
As with the higher education crowd, it’s all well and good for economic development advocates to ask for more money, but we really need them to be making the case that they deserve the money more than other recipients of public largess.