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Discover Newport, which for years occupied the Gateway Center as a marketing and visitors’ center, will move to smaller offices at 44 Long Wharf Mall, hoping to open the new offices in January.
“We’re moving our sales and marketing office,” said Evan Smith, Discover Newport Executive Director, concentrating on what he said is the agency’s primary mission.
This is a streamlined Discover Newport, with eight sales and marketing employees, down from a peak of 20, Smith said. The future of the visitors’ center, which occupied the first floor of the Gateway Center, remains questionable. Smith said he’s sent a survey to several other tourism agencies to learn how they operate their visitors’ centers, and is finding many with very few employees, often operating out of municipal owned buildings.
Smith said the agency was moving because it needs less space, could save money, and sign a longer-term lease. At Long Wharf, Smith said, Discover Newport has signed a five-year lease. The city, Smith said, was offering a one-year lease for the second-floor office space at the Gateway Center.
During their meeting on Wednesday night, Newport City Council approved an application from Aquidneck Community Table to operate the Aquidneck Grower’s Market on the first floor of the Gateway Center on Saturday’s from 9 am to 12 pm beginning November 7 through May 13.
This, of course, has been difficult times for tourism, as the Coronavirus has limited travel, causing massive job losses, hotel and restaurant closures, a virtual shutdown of the cruise industry, limited airline, and train travel.
Newport, and many shore side communities, bounced back in the summer, as travelers who would normally fly to high end destinations, drove to places like Newport, staying in top hotels, Smith said. Cottage rentals were also popular among “people fleeing from metro areas,” who felt more comfortable in a controlled environment.
The future, Smith said, is uncertain, with events likely to move to a “hybrid” model, incorporating virtual and in-person attendance, among other innovations, Smith said. The arrival of a vaccine that individuals can trust, and rapid testing, would have a major impact on the success of the 2021 tourism season.