Tourism Awards Recognize Diligence in Promoting State

The 2016 Connecticut Governor’s Tourism Awards — individuals and organizations "who go above and beyond to enhance both the appeal of our state as well as the health of our economy," were presented at the 2016 Governor's Conference on Tourism, held in Hartford.  Sessions at the day-long conference included Using Creativity to Reimagine Tourism, Digital Marketing, Social Media Practices, and Innovative Trends in Cultural Tourism.

The website was also highlighted, and key stats reflecting the success of the state's Still Revolutionary campaign were promoted.  Among them:  3 million visits to the tourism website, 250,000 followers on social media, 25 percent visited Connecticut after seeing an ad, summer tourism was up 12 percent last year, leaf-seaon visits were up 16 percent, hotel occupancy was up 4 percent and room tax revenue up 7 percent.  Total economic impact is $14 billion.

Award recipients recognized during the conference include:


Tourism Volunteer of the Year - Jeffry and Maryan Muthersbaugh, Nehemiah Brainerd House B&B

As valuable members of the Central Regional Tourism District’s Board of Directors and members of the Executive Committee, Jeff and Maryan are tireless in their efforts to support statewide and regional tourism marketing. In addition to being owners and operators of the Nehemiah Brainerd House B&B in Haddam, CT, Jeff also serves as the Vice President of the CT Lodging Association and Chairman of the Bed & Breakfast Association. They have been instrumental in forming the CT Bed & Breakfast Association under the CLA umbrella.

Tourism Rising Star Award - Regan Miner, Norwich Historical Societyimpact

At the age of 23, Regan has already accomplished more in the area of regional tourism than some seasoned professionals. A life long native of Norwich, she worked with Norwich Historical Society to unite the city’s many historical entities into a comprehensive destination, securing a grant to open the Norwich Heritage and Regional Visitors Center on the Norwich town green in 2015. Ms. Miner has also developed a series of “Walk Norwich” trails and seasonal events hosted by volunteers and supported by a strong social media presence.

Tourism Partners of the Year Award - Carmen Romeo, Fascia’s Chocolates and Howard Pincus, Railroad Museum of New England

Fascia’s Chocolates and the volunteer-run Railroad Museum of New England have truly laid the track for a sweet collaboration. They’ve joined forces to operate special train tours, including a wine-and-chocolate-themed sunset ride and Halloween event for families, and are adding a regularly scheduled “Chocolate Train” in 2016 to market to charter groups such as bus tours. This partnership has resulted in a unique experience that has attracted high interest at recent ABA and NTA conferences and is a model for other partners statewide.Tourism_Conference_high_res_01

Leader of the Year - Stephen Tagliatela, Saybrook Point Inn, Marina & Spa

An influential proponent for the tourism industry as a board member of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts and University of New Haven, Stephen is a strong advocate for arts and culture, education, and both historic and environmental preservation in the state. Under Stephen’s direction, The Saybrook Point Inn, as well as Spa and Marina, have won numerous awards for its often best-in-class green practices, including the first Connecticut hotel to be named a Certified Energy Hotel in 2007.

  Tourism Legacy Leader John Lyman III, Lyman Orchards

John Lyman is a member of the 8th generation of the Lyman family to farm the land in Middlefield, CT. An early proponent of what has become known as “agritourism,” he has helped to steer his 275-year-old family business toward becoming one of Connecticut’s leading tourist destinations, attracting more than 600,000 visitors a year. Fostering working partnerships with other tourism leaders in the state and region, John initiated cause marketing with unique Sunflower and Corn Mazes, contributing $1 to charitable causes for every person who “gets lost” in the maze, currently surpassing $500,000.

Putnam Pushing New Reputation as Arts and Culture Mecca, Gaining Recognition

When the Connecticut Main Street Center announced its Award of Excellence would go to the Town of Putnam, the Putnam Business Association, and the Putnam Arts Council for First Fridays in Downtown Putnam, there may have been more than one individual uncertain as to why. Many around the state may have been unaware of the northeastern Connecticut community’s goal of connecting artists, audiences, and arts and culture agencies to enhance the economic vitality of the community, while also showcasing downtown assets including a Bandstand and Outdoor Stage, the Downtown Farmers' Market Pavilion, and the local scenic River Trail.putnam

Driven by the vision to create a 'sense of place' and feature their downtown destination, the Town, the Business Association and the Arts Council collaborated to launch a monthly arts and culturally based Street Faire from May to October each year.  Now in its fifth year, the initiative has proven quite successful.

In 2014, approximately 3,000 people attended each event, with 15-20 street artisan vendors participating. The success of First Fridays has demonstrated the town's credentials as a 'destination' in Connecticut. Putnam was voted #4 Fan Favorite Town through the state Office of Tourism in 2013, and #2 Town in 2014 - the only town in the top 5 without waterfront. To overcome the obstacles of empty storefronts, the Putnam community worked diligently to reinvent itself as the arts and cultural hub of northeastern Connecticut, leading to recognition by Boston Magazine as "One of the Best 15 Small Towns to Visit in New England".

First Fridays define cultural diversity with a different theme each month. These themes are explored through dance, theatre & storytelling, architecture, song, food, and folklore.  Each monthly theme includes: 'Art Attacks' - random acts of art to surprise, entertain, and educate; 'Menu Celebrations' - local restaurants designing and creating menu specials to pair with the monthly theme; plus street bands, artisan vendors, and children events.arts

This year, the overarching theme is 'A Century of Art'.  To start this year, the monthly themes have been:  May - Turn of the Century; June - The Roaring 20's / The Jazz Age; July - The 1940's / WWII and the Arts; August - Pop Art of the 1960's;.  Still to come: September - The 1980's / Urban Art; and October - Turn of the Century / The Digital Age.

First Fridays "feature great live entertainment, variety of art vendors lining the streets, fun and interactive art projects, and stimulating events" hosted by such downtown galleries as Arts & Framing and the Sochor Gallery, The Empty Spaces Project Gallery, Sawmill Potteryand Silver Circle Gallery, according to the event website. Officials say that since the inception of First Fridays, the exponential growth has been manageable only because of business partners, volunteers and partners stepping up to assist with the Town administration. Town employees provide services for sound systems, street closures and safety measures. Police traffic patrol has been set in place; corps of volunteers handle facilities management; and valet service companies have been hired by restaurants to assist with parking.

Putnam has begun to be described as “a mecca of revitalization and community pride.” Participants last year, for example, were given disposable cameras to take shots of Downtown architecture. The photos were then pieced to create a 9' X 3' collage spelling out the word "PUTNAM".  Educating and advocating through multi-disciplinary and inter-generational events has earned new found recognition for Putnam, and made First Fridays a destination for audiences from Northeast Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.  All of which makes the recognition from the Connecticut Main Street Center less surprising.

239 Towns in Connecticut Vie to Win State's "Fan Favorite" Tourism Contest

If you’re looking for your town on the drop down menu at the state’s tourism site as part of the second annual “fan favorite” contest, don’t be surprised if the list seems longer than you’d expect. The list of “towns” includes each and every one of the state’s 169 municipalities - plus 70 additional geographic entities that really aren’t towns at all. Some are familiar, many are not – except perhaps for the people who live or near their boundaries. Either way, they’re not towns or cities. Which could make it interesting as the votes are tallied.

Might “Woodstock” and “South Woodstock” divide the Woodstock vote? Or “Redding” and “Redding Ridge” the Redding vote? And where is Central Village, Oneco, Pine Meadow, or Quaker Hill? All are included on the list of towns.

That’s not even mentioning the back-to-back listings for “Barkhamstead” and “Barkhamsted” – presumably one is a misspelling, not a distinct geographic entity.monitor

Although the site asks for individuals to “vote for the town,” there are 239 choices available. Of course, after identifying a “town,” respondents need to indicate which “revolutionary place in town” has earned their vote for “fan favorite.”  No suggestions are offered there - entrants are on their own.

Voting opened earlier this month and continues on the agency's Facebook page through July 25. The winners will receive advertising and public relations support from the tourism office, and will also be featured in the 2015 Connecticut Visitor's favorite

The state’s tourism Facebook pages urges visitors to “Vote now for your chance to win a getaway to Niantic! The ZIP and ZEN prize package includes a four-night stay at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, $100 gift card to Grace boutique and a free all-day pass to Niantic Bay Bicycles.” Visitors are also asked to share a photo, presumably for posting on the state’s tourism web pages.

And if you’re wondering when it was founded – the state, not the Facebook page – the date listed is January 9, 1788.

The state’s tourism website,, also provides a link to the contest, as well as the state’s visitors guide and a range of “52 getaways” and travel details and special offers. One can even sign up to be a “Connecticut Ambassador.” That web form does not include a drop down menu of towns – one simply just types in your town, without any suggestions or prompting.

Familiar Business Logos Coming to a Highway Near You, Promoting Tourism

The logos of Taco Bell, Starbuck’s and Georgie’s Diner are among 10 business logos and 7 tourist attraction logos that will be appearing on a total of 27 state highway signs in Connecticut this year, under a state program just underway.  The highway signs, part of the state’s ongoing efforts to promote tourism, will appear on I-95, I-91, I-84, I-395 and Routes 8 and 9.

Administered by the state Department of Transportation, the 10 business logos that will be appearing on 13 signs across the state include A-1 Diner, Dunkin Donuts, Georgie’s Diner, Mobil, Starbucks, Comfort Inn, Taco Bell, Residence Inn, Guilford Suites, and Chili’s.

The seven tourist attraction logos that will appear on 14 roadway signs include the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, The Griswold Inn, the Tanger Outlet Center, The Adventure Park at Storrs, Niantic Bay Boardwalk, Sailing Ship Argia Cruises, and Antique Center (at exit 8 on I-95).  Among the attractions, four attractions will be having signs posted for the first time, with each to have a sign in each roadway direction (northbologosund and southbound, or eastbound and westbound).

The largest number of logos appearing will belong to Taco Bell, with four roadway signs, on I-395 at exit 93, I-91 at exits 16 and 47E, and Route 9 at exit 19.

According to the DOT, the Specific Information (Logo) Signing Program is intended to provide the motoring public with information on essential travel services (gas, food, lodging, camping) that are available at qualified interchanges on expressways in Connecticut.

The program allows qualified businesses to apply and erect their business sign or logos on specific information (logo) signs. Businesses must meet minimum qualification criteria specified in the regulations governing the program. There are no exceptions or waivers. A non-refundable $2,000.00 application fee per business, per interchange must accompany the application.highway sign

Installation of business signs is permitted only after field review of business and sign feasibility is conducted by the Department and certain concurrences and permits are completed or obtained.

All costs for fabrication and installation of signing by a contractor is the responsibility of the initial business on an interchange approach. Subsequent businesses are required to reimburse the initial business a percentage of the initial business’s installation cost as indicated in the regulations. Subsequent businesses are also responsible for all costs for the installation of their business signs. Businesses must continue to meet minimum qualification criteria as long as the business sign is displayed or signing will be removed.

The Connecticut Tourist Attractions Sign Program is intended to create a predictable and recognizable system to help travelers locate places of interest that will make their experience in Connecticut more Adventure Storrs logoenjoyable. Participating businesses must indicate how many potential visitors they hope to attract at various periods during the year.  Those accepted Argiainto the signage program must annually update DOT on their visitor-traffic counts and provide related information.

In another project promoting Connecticut sites and attractions for highway travelers, I-95 will soon see signs posted by DOT promoting the University of Bridgeport, Housatonic College, Barnum Museum, Webster Bank Arena, Harbor Yard Ballpark, Shoreline Star Greyhound, Connecticut Audubon Center, Silver Sands State Park, Westfield Post Mall, PEZ Visitor Center, West Haven Beaches, University of New Haven Yale Bowl.  Three of the signs are new (Yale Bowl, Silver Sands and CT Audubon); the others are replacing existing signs.

Rising Star No More, Visitors Now Urged to DASH

Hartford’s downtown circulating bus – developed as an easily accessible means of moving tourists and convention goers around the city – was re-launched this fall with a new name, distinctive new coat of paint and renewed enthusiasm.

Previously operating as the Star Shuttle since September 2005, nearly 728,700 passengers have used the specially designated bus service, which connects the Connecticut Convention Center, the Riverfront, the CT Science Center, the Arts and Entertainment District, various restaurants, and downtown hotels.

Now, it has received an all-orange makeover, along with the new name – DASH.

The change follows the change in Hartford's tourism campaign branding from "New England's Rising Star" to "Hartford Has It" and continues as  a collaboratiodashn among CT TRANSIT, CT DOT, the City of Hartford, the Capitol Region Development Authority, the Hartford Business Improvement District, the Hartford Metro Alliance, and the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau.

A year ago, the Hartford Business Improvement District tapped the collective creativity of capitol region residents to help re-name the free downtown circulator.  Local resident David Ceder suggested “dash”. Ceder explained "I am excidashart_webted the time has come to showcase the rebranding and new shuttle name! I chose "dash" not only because of the acronym (Downtown Area SHuttle) but also because it's an action word --"dash," to me, is exciting, inviting, and invokes you to hop on and discover Downtown."

The bright orange DASH bus has been accompanied by updated signs downtown and an interactive map to help passengers know where to go to get on the free shuttle. Regular DASH service operates every weekday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., departing every 15 minutes from the Connecticut Convention Center.

During major downtown events, enhancements may include later evening service on weekdays, as well as service on Saturdays and Sundays. The specific services planned for each major event are posted on the CT TRANSIT website. The dash Shuttle does not operate on weekends when there is no downtown event scheduled.  The free shuttle also offers convenient connections to both the Bradley Flyer bus and to regular local CT TRANSIT bus service.

An out-of-town visitor to a convention earlier this year – before the name change -  praised the service. "My daughter and I ...have been using the Shuttle extensively to navigate the conference sites. I cannot say enough good things about ALL of the bus drivers. Thanks for making our trip so much fun."

Should you be  wondering, two buses have received the DASH makeover, adash mapnd the vehicles alternate in providing the service.  The DASH shuttle is a service of the CT Department of Transportation and operated by CT TRANSIT. Information on the route and extended service hours can be found at

Modest Economic Growth Seen in 2013 Amidst Competing Indicators

The Connecticut Economic Digest, assessing the prospects for the state’s economy in the new year, has unveiled a series of observations and analyses that suggest it may be a challenging twelve months, but not without the possibility of progress, and an overall prediction of “modest growth”.  The first issue of 2013 of the journal produced by the state Departments of Labor and Department of Community and Econoecondigestmic Development, notes a range of factors that could impact economic prospects, among them:

  • Tourism: "Last year the state launched a multi-million-dollar, two-year marketing initiative to develop, foster and stimulate the state’s brand identity and bolster business and tourism. Tourism has a significant impact on the state’s economy, estimated by the University of Connecticut’s Center for Economic Analysis at $11.5 billion every year through total traveler and tourism revenue and $1.15 billion in state and local tax revenue. Travel and tourism creates more than 110,000 jobs throughout the state, or 6.5% of Connecticut’s total employment."
  • Large businesses: "The state’s “First Five” and “Next Five” job initiatives have promised substantial growth in employment and capital investment in Connecticut. At year’s end, nine business deals had been announced as part of the ongoing expansion program, which leveraged $1.3 billion in private investment. Between the nine companies — Cigna, ESPN, NBC, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, CareCentrix, Sustainable Building Systems LLC, Deloitte, Bridgewater Associates, and Charter Communications — up to 4,748 jobs are expected to be created and 11,087 retained."
  • Small Businesses: "The Small Business Express Program (EXP) provides loans and grants to Connecticut’s small businesses to spur job creation and growth and has seen vigorous activity since its inception. The state has assisted 435 companies with more than $60 million in loans and grants. With this much-needed capital, up to 1,523 jobs are expected to be created and 4,080 retained."
  • Housing: "The state’s housing market languished in 2011. Residential permit data through September 2012, however,  had grown by 32.2% compared to the same period the previous year. New homes sales grew 5.7% in September, and housing starts 3.6% in October, the highest level in four years."

The Digest noted that “the Connecticut recession from March 2008 through February 2010 saw the loss of 117,500 jobs. Jobs regained numbered 30,700 (26.1%) since February 2010 when the recovery began through November 2012, including 1,900 in the year 2012 through November (0.12%) seasonally adjusted since the beginning of the year. The private sector has regained 42,000 (38.1%) of the 110,200 private jobs lost in that same recessionary period.”  It is forecast that Connecticut will gain about 5,600 jobs or 0.3% in 2013.

In addition, the Digest pointed out that “The state’s unemployment rate, after peaking at 9.4% for five consecutive months in 2010 and falling rather steadily to 7.7% in March and April 2012, jumped unexpectedly through last summer to 9.0% and declined to 8.8% in November.” The New England Economic Partnership forecasts Connecticut’s unemployment rate will be 7.7 % in 2013.