Tourism Council looks at industry trends
At the December 18 meeting of the Block Island Tourism Council, Executive Director Jessica Willi shared the results of the United States Travel Association’s (USTA) examination of trends in the tourism industry. These findings were released in U.S. Travel Outlook, reflecting the research of Dr. Suzanne Cook, Senior Advisor of USTA. Willi thought the board would find the results interesting.
Cook offers a promising prognosis of the economy, “as housing activity picks up, the banking sector recovers, consumer spending and confidence strengthen, the labor market improves and support continues from the Federal Reserve.”
The study shows the “travel industry continues to add jobs” — to a total of 79,000 to date in 2012. Cook finds that “consumer confidence and spending… are continuing to show gains,” with the Consumer Confidence Index rising to "its highest level in more than four and a half years.”
The research indicates leisure travel is showing gains while business travel is down, but airline passenger travel is predicted “to grow at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent through 2016.”
Cook documents that the United States lodging market reached record highs in the “first half of 2012,” generating “high occupancy gains responsible for surging revenues.”
Willi was elated that the forecast for leisure travel continued to make gains and felt it could only mean good news for the island.
Interstate’s rate changes
Steve Fillipi voiced serious concern about proposed changes in Interstate Navigation’s rate structure. Last week, the ferry company filed a rate case with the Public Utilities Commission (see related story). Among them are the elimination of commuter rates, lower vehicle charges and increased rates in freight. Fillipi felt the board should closely monitor the proposal.
Brad Marthens worried that these changes “would have a huge impact on business.” He cautioned, “We should keep an eye on this.” Of the impact on commuter rates, Fillipi said simply, “It’s awful.”
Block Island Magazine-2013
Fraser Lang, Block Island Times publisher, spoke to the council asking members to approve the arrangement for this year’s publication of the Tourism Council’s magazine Block Island. Lang’s publication staff provides all editorial, advertising and graphic design services, as well as all printing and distribution of magazine copies throughout New England and in New York City.
Among other responsibilities the publisher will undertake are soliciting sponsors, billing and collecting payments and providing an annual accounting of monies brought in. For these services, the council pays a fee of $30,000.
Reviewing changes last year, Lang noted, “We went from 60,000 to 80,000 copies.” Now with printing costs going up, he said, “We have the option of either dropping down to 75,000 copies or raising the price for sponsors.” He asked the council to make that decision, which the group did, agreeing that it was wiser to drop the number of copies, rather than burden sponsors with higher rates.
Lang assured them the decrease in numbers of copies would not be significant in maintaining their wide distribution.
Noting it was “the last meeting before 2013,” Willi said that in relation to income, “We’re in a good place.” While still paying for some advertising, she pointed out the council was nearly $2,500 in the black at year’s end. “We’re basically on track, and the bottom line is the budget looks good,” Willi said.
Reporting on the progress of next summer’s projected Glass Float Project, Willi said Eben Horton, the Wakefield artist who created the floats, has reached his goal through a KickStarter campaign of raising $6,000. As a result, he has begun making floats for the project’s second season on island. The first, by all accounts, was very successful.