Connecticut, region hoping to tap into pent-up tourism demand

·3 min read

May 7—In March, more than two-thirds of the respondents to a survey of Northeast-based consumers indicated that once vaccinated against COVID-19, they'd be comfortable traveling to destinations within 100 miles of home.

State tourism officials are pointing to that statistic as they launch "Say Yes to Connecticut," a $1.2 million spring/summer marketing campaign designed to take advantage of the state's relatively high vaccination rate and Gov. Ned Lamont's scheduled May 19 rollback of capacity restrictions on restaurants, entertainment venues and attractions.

Last summer, the state made a similar investment in "So Good to See You, Connecticut." At the time, COVID-19 restrictions were in place, including an advisory that required travelers arriving from most other states to self-quarantine for 14 days.

More than half of Connecticut's residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease and nearly 70% have received at least one dose of vaccine. The state's daily positivity rate has been trending downward in recent days; it stood at 1.39% on Friday.

Connecticut has seen 342,718 positive cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, the governor's office reported Friday — an increase of 436 from Thursday's count. Hospitalizations associated with the disease, at 309, were down by 15, though six more deaths brought the toll so far to 8,137. There were 23 people hospitalized with the disease in New London County on Friday; Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London had 15 coronavirus patients, and Westerly Hospital had none.

"With the vaccinations and the lifting of restrictions, Connecticut is primed and ready to deliver," Christine Castonguay, interim director of the state Office of Tourism, said Friday.

Castonguay, who'd been with the office as director of branding for a decade, was appointed interim director following the retirement, effective April 1, of Randy Fiveash, who headed the tourism office for more than 12 years.

She said a search for a permanent director will be conducted.

The new marketing campaign, its theme based on consumer research, will air in television ads and online, targeting state residents as well as markets in neighboring Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, all within a two-hour drive of Connecticut tourist attractions.

Castonguay said the campaign will focus on safety and promote vaccinations. A week ago, she noted, the state, in a partnership with the Connecticut Restaurant Association, announced a "Drinks On Us" promotion that will run from May 19 to the end of the month. Participating restaurants will offer customers who've received at least one vaccination dose a complimentary drink, either alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Participants must show their vaccination card and purchase food.

"Vaccination buses" will be deployed to attractions to deliver on-site shots, Castonguay said.

With pent-up demand raising the possibility of sizable crowds in some locations, Castonguay advises those planning trips to make reservations well in advance, whenever possible, and to check times and availability directly with venues or via the state's tourism website, CTvisit.com.

She said staffing may be an issue at some locations.

Regional tourism officials also are looking forward to a post-pandemic surge in business during the upcoming season.

The Eastern Regional Tourism District announced this week it will again provide matching funds to businesses, nonprofits and municipalities that develop marketing plans focused on eastern Connecticut's tourism economy. The program doled out more than $200,000 to 11 recipients last year.

Organizations encouraged to apply include operators of hiking trails, boating adventures, arts and culture, museums, theaters, historic sites and villages. Applications should be submitted by June 1 to the district's marketing committee.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting