One Ocean State industry employs thousands and generates billions of dollars every year, and yet the state continues to invest less and less and avoids structural change that would make a difference.
The industry is tourism and hospitality, and according to the R.I. Economic Development Corporation, it brings in $5.2 billion in spending per year. Yet the state, cash-strapped as it is, continues to shrink the amount of money it spends on promoting the state, down by more than half since 2008 to $330,000 in fiscal 2012.
As usual, our neighbors are spending more, with Massachusetts committing nearly 20 times as much as the Ocean State and Connecticut in the throes of a $15 million campaign.
While it is difficult to imagine the state budget yielding more marketing dollars, the state could generate a bigger buzz for Rhode Island by consolidating the seven local tourism boards into the State Tourism Division. Each local board operates independently and it is inconceivable that a centralized office wouldn’t make bigger waves for the same aggregate spending. Doesn’t the state’s economy deserve at least that kind of commitment from its government? •