• Hoping for a successful Newport summer? A group of tourism, business leaders have some ideas

    Hoping for a successful Newport summer? A group of tourism, business leaders have some ideas
    Savana Dunning, Newport Daily News
    Read the original article here.

    Newport-area businesses leader are calling on state lawmakers to increase support and aid to small businesses in anticipation for the summer 2021 travel season.

    “We're aiming to develop short term and longer term efforts to mitigate the negative economic impacts of the coronavirus,” said Erin Donovan-Boyle, executive director of the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce. “We're focused on accelerating recovery by leveraging the region's tremendous assets and making our quality of place and our quality of life second to none, and to be better prepared for future economic disruptions.”

    A couple wearing masks walks along America's Cup Avenue during the Fourth of July holiday.

    Restore Greater Newport, a task force formed by the chamber and other industry leaders in March 2020 to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local business, announced a list of six recommended actions at a Tuesday morning press conference which they hope will aid Newport-area businesses recovering from the pandemic and moving into the 2021 summer tourism season.

    Two of the task force’s recommendations focus on aid to the tourism and hospitality industry, which Donovan-Boyle called a key business sector in the Greater Newport region. The task force is asking the state to develop and communicate a reopening plan for the tourism industry and to identify state funding for regional travel marketing. 

    More:These Newport County businesses are on the move

    At the press conference, Discover Newport CEO Evan Smith said the tourism industry suffered greater than any other industry over the past year. As summer edges closer, Smith said the industry needs clearly established guidelines to prevent unexpected event cancellations during the peak travel season.

    “We need to have a predictable set of guidelines that these organizers can rely on so that they can convey these to their clients, and everyone feels like they're on safe ground, so that you don't keep moving goalposts, otherwise you're going to continue to suffer from cancellations, which is a big problem for our industry right now,” Smith said. “We've moved conferences, we've moved weddings, we've moved events so many times that the frustration level is very high, and so we really need to work together.”

    Smith said the state-funded travel marketing would also be important to the tourism industry’s recovery efforts by giving consumers the confidence to travel.

    Another recommendation asks for a one-year pause on new legislation or regulations that might impose new costs or administration and operational changes on small businesses, including those in the hospitality industry. Donovan-Boyle said this pause would allow these businesses to focus on rebuilding operations from their pandemic states.


    “It's not time for costly mandates,” Donovan-Boyle said. “Many small businesses, including restaurants, hotels and venues remain on the brink of closure and an additional regulatory burden could push them over the edge...it is also not the time to stifle other industries that are helping to carry us through this economic downturn, with additional taxes as well.”

    The other three recommendations ask for continued support through already established resources. The first asks the Department of Labor and Training to keep its Real Jobs RI program, which offers workforce and training support to local businesses, as a permanently funded program. The other two both involve federal funding, with one asking for a coordinated effort between business associations and municipal leaders to pursue more stimulus funding for infrastructure and economic needs, and the other asking for a refinement of stimulus money distribution through the state in anticipation of the next round of stimulus funding.

    “We truly believe our regional public-private partnership is best equipped to identify and implement the programs and projects that we need to accelerate recovery and deploy strategic development,” Donovan-Boyle said. “We have the data, the information and the wherewithal to implement these projects and programs, and we hope that the state will work with us to enable us to not only pursue our own federal dollars but also to direct some of the state dollars that come in from the federal stimulus.”

    Dale Venturini, president of the Rhode Island Hospitality Industry, said the hope with the final recommendation is to streamline stimulus funding mechanisms to make them quicker and easier.

    “We had a lot of opportunities, a lot of things were happening so quickly, it's kind of cliche to say there was no rulebook on this, and certainly not a rulebook on rent money and what we did with blankets and heaters, what many of you did with tents and heaters, and the like,” Venturini said. “We didn't have guidelines in writing, so we figured it out by all coming together. What we want to make sure is that, next go-around, when money comes in, that we're at the table to figure it out.”

    Donovan-Boyle said the group is working on more specific action recommendations to release in the next coming weeks. 

  • Chamber Events