Restore Greater Newport today released the following press release, outlining specific recommendations and requests for support to save the tourist season.
Focusing on much needed recommendations for the region’s tourism industry, Restore Greater Newport, an organized coalition of business, tourism, hospitality, manufacturing and marine entities is once again calling on the General Assembly and the McKee Administration to immediately enact specific measures to save the upcoming tourism season and in so doing, minimize the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and restore economic prosperity to the greater Newport region. The requested initiatives and amplify the more broad-based initiatives unveiled on March 2nd and focus near-exclusively on the travel and tourism industry.
According to Erin Donovan-Boyle, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce and spokesperson for Restore Greater Newport, priority action must be taken to develop and clearly communicate the reopening plan to tourism, hospitality and retail establishments here in the region and throughout the state. “Planning for the summer season must begin now in order to implement necessary action items for successful and safe events, weddings and conferences which are due to take place within the next three months,” said Donovan-Boyle. “In addition, we must be vigilant in considering that the tourism community and prospective travelers to the region are paying close attention to how we manage the reopening, and how effective we are in striking the all-important balance between the health and safety of our residents and guests, with critical need to jumpstart our economy.”
Specific Requested Actions
The coalition specifically requested the following Legislative and/or Administrative action:
- Work with the trade organizations and sector representatives (Greater Newport Chamber, Rhode Island Hospitality Association, Discover Newport) representatives on an ongoing basis to manage consumer confidence and health and safety.
- Adopt the US travel association – safe travel guidance.
- Develop a consumer confidence-boosting campaign that spells out what the state and its partners are doing to keep people safe. Invest state resources in this endeavor.
- Prioritize hospitality, tourism, and retail employees to receive vaccines. These are workers who are essential to our economy.
- Remove the COVID Safety Officer requirement in its entirety and adopt the common sense guidelines similar to those announced by our neighboring states.
- Enhance accessibility for the rapid test so that hospitality and tourism businesses can support the health and safety of their employees and customers.
- Reduce quarantining requirements for out of state visitors, with appropriate parameters and guidance from DOH/CDC.
- Support testing centers in high trafficked areas – downtown Newport, Airports, Train stations, bus depots, marinas and all ports of entry.
- Clearly define the numbers of people that will be permitted at all types of venues and establishments and ensure consistency throughout the season.
- Develop clear guidance for conferences and business meetings conducted indoors and outside.
- Develop best practices for weddings, caterers and large social gatherings.
- Keep cleaning protocols in place for boating-related events.
- Coordinate with regional leaders to seek Federal support for tourism promotion and enhanced health and safety equipment needs.
- Continue to clearly articulate event parameters, along with capacities allowed in restaurants and retail establishments so that visitors will understand the rules of the destination and anticipate the experience.
- Work with industry sector representatives to plan for the resumption of business meetings and conferences. This can include promoting outdoor meetings at various venues that can accommodate.
Why this recommended action matters
Donovan-Boyle underscored the import of these recommendations against the backdrop of the amount of money generated by a robust tourism season, and the amount of time it takes to adequately plan for the season. “Large-scale events such as the Folk and Jazz Festivals presented by the Festivals Foundation can take at minimum 90-days lead time to confirm venues and logistics. This also is the same for sailing regattas, weddings and other festivals, all contributing significantly to the region’s economy.” She also noted that as of early 2020, over 7,000 jobs or 13% of all employment in the Greater Newport region were in direct tourism-related businesses.
“If we are to truly have a season this summer, our venues need clarity and guidance now on how they might reopen safely and efficiently. Predictability for the season is key,” commented Evan Smith, CEO of Discover Newport. “With several events being planned in the region we believe it is critical that the State and its partners are in sync in order to realize the full economic benefits of these events.”
The following large scale events are currently being planned in the Greater Newport Region:
- April 9 – May 16 Daffodil days at Blithewold Mansion
- June 18-20 – Back in Bloom
- Bristol 4th of July parade (to be held on July 5th)
- Jul 4-20 Newport Music Festival ( Classical)
- July 11- 18 – Tennis Hall of Fame championships
- July 23-25 – Newport Folk Festival
- July 30-Aug 1 – Newport Jazz Festival
- Sept 16-19 Newport International Boat Show
- September 17-19 Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival
- Sept 30- Oct 3 Audrain’s Newport Concours & Motor week