Though holiday-season tourism in the state encompasses much more than December tidings, it still comes down to tying up a package with a nice, pretty bow. Only when you’re talking tourism, the package is a grouping of activities, attractions, eateries and hotels.
The bow is a discount offered to entice travelers to take a chance on a state that won’t exactly offer a respite from the chilly, snowy weather that winter vacationers are looking to escape.
But, say tourism industry leaders here, the state and region have much to offer from late fall through the winter, and Rhode Island benefits from drawing visitors with unique-to-the-state events and deals.
“We have these authentic locations. You can’t go to Florida or Texas and get that wonderful, romantic, authentic, century-old charm Rhode Island is able to provide,” said Mark Brodeur, director of tourism with the R.I. Economic Development Corporation. “The [tourism] industry has developed events to bring people in that time of year and messaging [on] how different it is to come to Rhode Island and New England at that time of year.”
Marketing that charm begins when the traditional New England tourist season ends after the fall season ushers in foliage, college students and seasonal festivals.
Brodeur said the Halloween season is distinctly one of the region’s best, with Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, which organizers said annually draws out-of-state spectators, and ample opportunities for apple picking, pumpkin picking and other fall-related activities.
“The largest draw in media to this destination is October and the fall season,” Brodeur said. “I [read] a lot [about] haunted happenings. It’s absolutely where we get our bang for our buck.”
But Brodeur doesn’t have a dollar figure to attach to fall – or winter seasonal draws. Instead he and others rely more on the changes and additions in package-type deals tourism-related businesses offer during those months.
“If we look back 20 years, the [tourist] season was May to October and that was the end,” he said. “As we look at industry growth, one thing we look at is the off-season … and how we can optimize the holidays and any type of draw we would have to the destination.”