RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT: A paddler on the Blackstone River canal in a 2011 photo. Robert Billington, president of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, is looking to create a greater connection among southern New England tourism assets.
It sounds like the latest up-and-coming neighborhood in a real estate magazine, but SoNew is in fact the new moniker for southern New England coined by local tourism leaders hoping it will attract more visitors to the region.
“We have been kicking around this idea of southern New England for several years now and are trying to bring together the organizations of the three states to imprint this concept,” said Robert Billington, president of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and one of the principals behind the Southern New England branding effort.
“Northern New England has always worked well together, but southern New England has the most to gain,” Billington said. “Most visitors are not coming into the region through Boston, but are coming in from New York, so we are in an excellent position to catch them.”
In an example of SoNew regional thinking, Billington has expanded the range of the annual tours Blackstone Valley has run for a decade, which used to be Tour Rhode Island, to reach outside the state’s borders. They are now called Southern New England Discovery Tours.
In the group’s tours that took place in early May, itineraries included not only the Blackstone Valley, Providence’s Independence Trail and Taylor Swift’s mansion in Westerly, but Mystic and Putnam, Conn., and Worcester, Mass. They started from the parking lot at Twin River Casino in Lincoln.
The response was overwhelmingly positive, Billington said, and future tours should expand further outside Rhode Island with separate starting points in each state.
If successful, SoNew will encourage visitors from the south and west to stop and explore some of the lesser-known sites in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts instead of heading straight for the mountains and foliage of the northern states.