The Block Island Times

Featured Letter: Tourism means big business for Block Island

By Jessica Willi | Apr 22, 2013

To the Editor:

In 2012, more than $26 million was spent on food and beverages in Block Island establishments and more than $21 million was spent on Block Island hotels, inns, B&Bs and vacation home rentals.

That spending translated into more than $500,000 in visitor taxes from food and rooms being remitted to the Town of New Shoreham general fund in 2012. In addition to that, the Tourism Council (BITC) receives a portion of what is called the ‘bed tax’, collected by hotels, inns and B&Bs. In 2012, that amount was just over $250,000.

With this money the Tourism Council funds many different community projects, from a Blues on the Block concert to hanging the flags on the utility poles for July 4. We organize a Community Christmas Tree lighting and sponsor and promote the Glass Float Project. These are just four of the many projects we help foster on Block Island, to make it a more welcoming place and a better place to live. While about 10 percent of our budget ($25,000) went to the Chamber of Commerce to help run the Welcome Center in 2012, the majority of the Tourism Council’s time and money (as is outlined in our bylaws) is spent on Marketing and Promotion of Block Island to visitors from near and far.

The Tourism Council produces (with the Block Island Times), the Block Island magazine, which has 75,000 copies distributed annually to carefully selected locations. We have a robust Social Media presence, with active Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts. The Tourism Council has a popular website at (as many as 75,000 unique views a month in the summer) as well as a mobile website, which we hope makes the island more hospitable to our guests. BITC has a relevant advertising campaign with various print and on-line components. We promote Block Island at Travel and Special Interest Expositions, like the AAA Travel Show, the Big E and the SNE Wedding Expo. Looking forward, we are excited to be producing promotional videos, so keep your eye out for our YouTube channel!

The Tourism Council is working with Interstate Navigation to promote the new High Speed Ferry Service from downtown Newport, a service that we feel will have a positive economic influence on Block Island. In late June we will be hosting, along with Interstate, a group of key players in the Hospitality Industry from Newport and Providence to show them what the new service will mean to their guests and how wonderful and easy a trip to Block Island can be.

While doing our best to promote Block Island to visitors, we are aware that we live on a very precious island. We understand that there is such a thing as  “too many” or  “too much.” Our goal is  “Sustainable Tourism.” Sustainable Tourism is tourism that attempts to impact the local environment and culture as much as possible, while helping to generate future employment and cultivate  “Power of Place.” Power of Place is a desirable place to live for local people.

Again, almost $50 million was spent in Block Island restaurants, hotels, inns, B&Bs and on house rentals in 2012 alone. That’s big business, so the Tourism Council would like to reach out to our community and ask for your help in welcoming our visitors hospitably so we can keep those same people coming back again and again to strengthening and sustain our local economy and our Power of Place.

Jessica Willi

Executive Director of the Block Island Tourism Council

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