When industry insiders talk international travel in Rhode Island, they really don’t.
That is, they don’t talk about Rhode Island specifically, or at least not narrowly enough to gauge exactly how much of the nation’s or the New England region’s overseas-visitation markets the state attracts.
“Rhode Island on the world stage is somewhat dwarfed,” said Mark Brodeur, director of tourism for the R.I. Economic Development Corporation. “The one way in which we have a presence is being part of the state of New England.”
Brodeur is referring to Discover New England, the cooperative marketing alliance based in Portsmouth, N.H., and funded equally by New England states to increase international travel. Rhode Island, he said, has had a 20-year relationship with the organization and continues to rely on its efforts as recapturing international travel – a nationwide problem – becomes crucial.
International travel is the country’s No. 1 export industry, according to the United States Travel Association, generating $241 billion in economic output in 2011 and showing a 13.9 percent gain from the previous year. But the group cites lost potential that must be regained.
The trade organization, in its Power of Travel campaign, reported that between 2001 and 2010, the United States lost about 27 percent of its overseas market share even though long-haul travel surged 40 percent worldwide during that time.
“America has not grown at the same level we’ve seen in our competitive countries,” Brodeur said.
And, as local business leaders and economists talk increasingly of promoting exports as the way to revitalize the state’s bleak economy, some wonder what could be done to increase Rhode Island’s share of global travel.
The U.S. Travel Association on its website reports that international travel to Rhode Island contributes $1.7 billion annually in direct spending and is responsible for 13,200 jobs here.