Creating a tourism brand in the Valley and across CT

Connecticut offers many tourism sites that can boost the state’s economy when marketed well.

That was the message Randy Fiveash, state tourism director, delivered during a presentation at a Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce breakfast last week.

“For such a small state, the tourism product [is] fantastic,” Fiveash said.

Part of promoting the state involves creating a brand, and Connecticut is doing that with its “Still Revolutionary” marketing campaign.

The slogan is intended to cover tourism as well as to increase economic development, encourage more young people to move here, and to get residents to talk up the state’s attributes as a destination.

An $11.5 billion industry in the state

Tourism in Connecticut is a $11.5-billion industry that creates 110,000 jobs and brings in more than $1.1 million a year in state and local taxes, according to Fiveash.

He said every dollar invested in tourism promotion brings in two to three times that amount in new tax revenue.

Fiveash was the main speaker during the breakfast, which also featured a talk by Gerry Chase, president and CEO of Shelton-based New Castle Hotels, and the presentation of two Breakfast Salute awards.

Chamber President Bill Purcell said the goal is “to build tourism as an economic driver” so Connecticut becomes “a prime destination, not an afterthought.”

“This place is so rich, and everything is only a few hours drive away — from the beautiful sea coast to the Litchfield Hills,” Purcell said.

He said the Valley includes many tourism destinations, such as Jones Family Farms and the Shelton History Center. “So much to do, so little time,” Purcell said.

‘A dynamic state’

Fiveash has been impressed with the community and business support he has received for the “Still Revolutionary” branding campaign for Connecticut.

The Office of Tourism wants people to think of Connecticut as “a dynamic state,” and to get many thousands of Facebook fans. It soon will launch a tourism app for smart-phones.

The “Still Revolutionary” campaign has won various marketing awards.

This fall, the Office of Tourism is promoting “100 Ways to Fall for CT” and refining its “52 Getaways” for the state.

Fiveash previously was Kentucky tourism director, coming to Connecticut in 2008. He also has worked in Branson, Mo., and Gatlinburg, Tenn.

He has had to contend with fluctuating budgets for his office due to the state’s fiscal issues, but expects to receive an increase to $12 million annually during the next two years.

Social media role in hotel business

New Castle Hotels operates 39 lodging facilities in the United States in Canada, including the Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton Inn in Shelton.

Chase, who oversees the company, said social media is revolutionizing the hotel business due to the ability of customers to post reviews on websites such as “Today, everything is online,” he said.

Chase said people know a lot about a hotel before they even arrive nowadays, and this makes the industry operate better.

Hotels were hit hard by the economic recession but now are recovering, he said.

Chase agreed that Connecticut has “marvelous tourism opportunities,” noting its location between New York and Boston

Salute to Youth CONNection founders

Breakfast Salutes were given to Gary and Francesca Scarpa of Youth CONNection Players and Center Stage Theatre, and Bill Powanda of Griffin Hospital.

The Scarpas began Youth CONNection in 1983, enabling high school- and college-aged students to learn and perform live theater during the summer. “You don’t need to go to Broadway in the summer in our Valley,” Purcell said.

The Scarpas also do performances for nonprofit groups and are community leaders, Purcell said.

Francesca Scarpa thanked the community for its support for the past three decades. “Come on down and see a show,” she said.

Griffin Hospital executive recognized

Powanda is retiring after 38 years at Griffin Hospital at the end of this month.

He is vice president of support services at the medical facility, which Purcell noted is “one of our largest employers” and “has a national reputation” in the healthcare industry.

He also has been Greater Valley Chamber board chairman, helped start the Healthy Valley initiative, chaired the All-America City Committee, and served in the state Senate.

“It certainly has been a wonderful adventure,” Powanda said.