By Emily Sutton
PBN Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE – Government and tourism leaders today teamed up to invite Ocean State residents to become tourists in their own state during the Fifth Annual Tour Rhode Island, There’s No Place Like Home, slated for May 3.
“Rhode Island residents love this state for many reasons,” Gov. Donald L. Carcieri said. “Tour Rhode Island offers us a special opportunity to see some of the historic and cultural treasures that bring visitors from around the nation to our state. We should recognize that our heritage is priceless and we need to celebrate it and protect it.”
He and First Lady Sue Carcieri were joined at the State House for the 2 p.m. announcement by Saul Kaplan, executive director of the R.I. Economic Development Corporation; David DePetrillo, director of the R.I. Tourism Division; Robert Billington, president of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council; and Steven Shipley, director of culinary relations at Johnson & Wales University. Also speaking were Bruce Beckham, executive director of Tourism Cares; and Andrew Schill, executive director of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, whose organizations are beneficiaries of the 2008 event.
This year, participants can select from 24 different full-day tours, Billington said. Examples include an arts, culture and theater tour of Providence; the scenery of South County; a Newport County Wineries tour; Dining Through History in Rhode Island; FarmWays, history and Spooky Spots tours; highlights, nature or lighthouse tours of Block Island – even an Only in Rhode Island tour that will take participants from the State House to Slater Mill, mansions in Newport and Bristol, and the Only in Rhode Island store.
Tour Rhode Island was honored last fall with the Travel Industry Association’s Odyssey Award, and also has been awarded a Geotourism Award for Sustaining and Indigenous Culture and Community. It has been praised by the National Tourism Association and the American Bus Association as and important training exercise for Rhode Island’s group tour industry.
Each year, tourism attracts 32 million visitors to Rhode Island, channeling more than $700 million per year to businesses across the state, according to Tourism Works for Rhode Island.
The idea for Tour Rhode Island sprang from Sue Carcieri’s observation that many Rhode Islanders never experience the state’s rich cultural and historical attractions or the natural beauty that makes our state so desirable to out-of-state tourists.
“Last year, we saw more than 1,200 Rhode Island residents taking tours,” the BV Tourism Council’s Billington said. “So not only is it a popular event, but it also makes tourism ambassadors out of these enthusiastic, knowledgeable Rhode Islanders.”
Tickets to Tour Rhode Island – $30 for an adult or $20 for a child 12 or younger – include admissions, transportation and lunch. A portion of the event’s proceeds will be donated to Tourism Cares, and non-perishable canned goods will be collected on the day of the event for the Rhode Island Food Bank.
This year’s event is made possible by the support of partners including AAA Southern New England, CVS Caremark Corp., Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island Monthly Communications and Whole Foods.
Tickets for the May 3, 2008, Tour Rhode Island event may be purchased through AAA Southeastern New England, by calling 1-877-874-7845 (buyers need not be members of AAA). Additional information, including details of all this year’s tours, is available at www.visitrhoseisland.com.