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Supporting Data-Driven Policies to Encourage Tourism

Posted on by Sarah Ficenec, Ph.D.

As a transplant to Connecticut, I think my favorite time of year here is summer. Everyone talks about how beautiful the state is in the fall, as the foliage takes on those great colors, but I’ll take late spring into summer as everything turns green, the days just keep getting longer, and the temperatures keep going up.

(Side note: When I moved to Connecticut, I was amazed by the plethora of trees in the state. I grew up in Nebraska, the home of Arbor Day, but there is a crazy amount of difference between the forests of the East and the trees planted in prairie out West.)

You can also see how many other people value summers in Connecticut when moving around the state: many of the state and town beaches are full of residents and visitors; parking lots are full at attractions ranging from marinas to historic vessels docked on the rivers and Long Island Sound to major aquariums, museums and other attractions; ferries between Connecticut and Long Island or Block Island run more frequently and carry more passengers; and restaurants, especially those along water, seem to fill up faster and have a longer wait.

Right now, policy makers in both the Lamont Administration and in the General Assembly are considering the state’s tourism policies and programming. However, one of the challenges in tourism – in Connecticut and elsewhere – is knowing how many people are taking advantage of the state’s many attractions. Many attractions collect their own visitor data – that’s why so many ask for your zip code – but collating all that data and filling in the missing pieces is a challenge. The state has made some progress in this area, such as with the 2019 Connecticut Business Sector Scorecard on the CT Department of Labor’s website, but more data, including number of people visiting state- and town- or city-owned beaches, forests, and parks, and more available data would help support data-driven policies to encourage even more tourism, benefiting the entire state’s economy.

Photo by Joe Mabel