Linda family honored; Tourism and Chamber talk achievements
It was an evening centered around the topic of providing a welcoming island atmosphere, one that benefits residents and visitors alike.
At a the annual joint Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council meeting on Sept. 26 held at the Spring House, both groups presented what they’ve been up to this past year and summer, guest speaker Cathy Morrison of Discover Newport discussed the importance of Visitor Centers and the Linda family of Interstate Navigation recieved the Joan Abrams Award.
First, Mary Lawless, president of the B.I. Chamber, commented that it has been a “year of change,” and the Chamber has done many things to address such change, such as a new website and the start of business networking-after-hours events. Kathy Szabo, executive director of the chamber, read from a lengthy list of events that they sponsored or organized, such as Taste of Block Island, the 15k road race and B.I. Early Learning Center events.
Jessica Willi, executive director of the Tourism Council, then spoke with a different focus on the advertising aspect of the group’s efforts. She explained in detail various social media the group has been reaching out to. “Ninety-eight percent of people booking a trip looked it up online beforehand,” she said, explaining that the council has really beefed up its online marketing, including a new mobile website, which received 500 views on its busiest day of July 4 this year.
Willi also discussed promotional magazines, Block Island in the news recently and touched upon a few events the council sponsored, including the Glass Float event.
She also said that food and beverage tax income was at around $40,000 — up dramatically from last year — meaning that about $4 million was spent on food this season.
With the delivery of such good news, it’s hard to imagine business on B.I. could get any better.
But Cathy Morrison, Discover Newport’s VP of Operations, enlightened the audience as to how Newport and its Visitors’ Center have created a welcoming environment.
“I truly believe [visitor centers] are the thing of the future,” she said. She described events that the center takes part in such as author engagements and sandcastle-building exhibits. She said the center often embraces other local activities and piggy-backs onto events, explaining that this brings a draw to both the event and to tourism as a whole.
She suggested that the B.I. Visitor Center install a door counter to check how many people stop in; Morrison said that 8,000 people stopped into the Newport Visitor Center on the busiest day.
She also said that they invited Newport’s mayor and City Council to work at the visitor center for a day — not only did they show up, but has such a good time there, some even stayed longer than asked, she said.
Joan Abrams Award
The Linda family of Interstate Navigation received the Joan Abrams Award, recognizing them as a “business that gives back to our community,” said Betty Lang, before presenting the award. Fraser Lang explained the reason the Lindas were selected: their generous donations to various island groups, their modest disposition, and the pride and hard work the family dedicates toward their business.
“As low key and modest as you are, you are appreciated by the Block Island community,” he said.
Fraser Lang commended not only the owners Sue, Josh and Ray Linda but also their family and “extended family” of employees working everywhere from the freight shed to the ticket booth.
Steve Draper of the Abrams family handed the award to Josh, Ray and Sue. True to modest form, the family kept its acceptance speech brief. Josh Linda, company Vice President, said: “As many of you know, my grandfather ran this company for many years... and like my grandfather, we work hard to provide a reliable and timely service to the island community, to visitors and to all... I would also like to thank the community for all the support they’ve provided over the years.”