As Memorial Day weekend approaches, travelers share a palpable anticipation for the summer travel season ahead. Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport, points to many new businesses and events in addition to lodging renovations as just some key factors expected to enhance the visitor experience throughout Newport and its eight coastal communities.

“In 2015, we enjoyed the most successful summer in the past 15 years,” said Smith. “Provided the weather is cooperative, gas prices stay low and the global political climate doesn’t experience any major disruptions, I’m confident we’ll continue to ride that wave. We have several new restaurants, many lodging properties that have undergone extensive renovations and new properties under construction, plus new shops and events all in addition to the places and experiences our visitors already know and love.” Smith also cites the strategic shoulder season sales and marketing efforts by Discover Newport, the region’s destination marketing organization, and the increased traffic seen on Discover Newport’s newly launched responsive website as an optimistic indicator.

Positive press has equally been a contributing factor to our destination’s lure, Smith adds. Earlier this year, Conde Nast Traveler named Newport one of the “Most Beautiful Towns in America,” while nearby Bristol was called one of the “18 Most Interesting Destinations to Visit in the United States” by Expedia.com. This past Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, the #1 Sunday morning news program in the nation for the past 13 years, prominently showcased Newport as they broadcasted on location, sharing the splendor of the City by the Sea with their 6 million viewers.

Rhode Island is within about 300 miles of 10 percent of the American population—that’s 30 million Americans within driving distance to Newport and its neighboring towns. As a popular and easily accessible drive market destination, Smith says there’s always an opportunity to reach first-time visitors while delivering new experiences for returning travelers.

“AAA is projecting more than 38 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend. That’s about 700,000 more people traveling compared to last year. Combined with the lowest Memorial Day gas prices since 2005, those are promising numbers for the traditional summer season kickoff.”

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).