… Wait, What? Tourism Dollars Were Spent to Attract BUSINESS to RI?


So NBC10’s Bill Rappleye reports that a special legislative commission is having a tough time getting satisfactory answers as to how the state Commerce Corporation (former the EDC, the agency that enabled 38 Studios) spent a bunch of tourism dollars.

Lawmakers put $5 million in this year’s budget to create a statewide tourism marketing plan. A legislative commission is trying to find out what happened to the money.

“You have almost $4 million being spent and not one paid tourism ad that I’ve seen,” Evan Smith of Discover Newport told NBC 10 News. “Not one.”

And via the Providence Journal today, we learn from that hearing where at least some of the state’s tourism money went. Turns out it wasn’t to … well, tourism. (Emphasis added.)

Evan Smith, CEO of Discover Newport, had a number of concerns, including the state’s focus on public relations and “earned media,” which account for $3 million of the total budget, rather than traditional advertising. “The amount dedicated to public relations is absurd,” Smith said.

He also blasted the one major commercial the state has purchased so far, a spot produced by CNN that appears in airports and on long-haul flights, for missing the “local drive” market the campaign was supposed to focus on. The airport spot, geared more toward CEOs than families, played in to a major complaint across the commission, that the Commerce Corporation was focused on luring new companies to Rhode Island at the expense of growing tourism.

Smith said he had asked six times to see examples of the paid tourism commercials the state was running, and only last week found out that they were all targeted to business attraction. “I thought it was very misleading and under the table, quite frankly, and didn’t appreciate it at all,” Smith said. “We would like to see a separation in business development and tourism.”

Hear, hear, Mr. Smith! So Governor Raimondo’s economic development efforts to date are comprised of 1.) corporate welfare and 2.) plundering the tourism budget???

This is NOT WORKING. The Raimondo administration took a bunch of tourism dollars back from regional tourism councils and squandered it. The money needs to go back to these councils, where it clearly was better spent by people who where in far better touch with the product that they were marketing. As for any statewide tourism efforts, it is now evident, from this eye-opening hearing, that the General Assembly would be chumps to give even one dollar, much less a budget increase (laughable idea), to the Commerce Corporation, which has demonstrated a lack of both competence and accountability in this area.

  • Bob Washburn

    I guess their name Commerce Corporation gives their mission away. It’s an outdated word for business.

  • stuckinRI

    I would be surprised to see the Comm Corp NOT get the $5mil for ‘tourism’ that they are asking for.
    We’ll see. So far we have started (very recently) to hear talk from some of the GA, but thus far we have witnessed very little ACTION.
    I am VERY skeptical.
    Remember they are the masters of bait and switch, talk one thing and do another.
    Let’s see what they actually DO.