The Block Island Times

Tourism Council reviews year-end activities

By Gloria S. Redlich | Jan 23, 2014

Block Island Tourism Council Executive Director Jessica Willi was busy during the last three months of 2013, as she reported to the Tourism board at its Tuesday, Jan. 14 meeting. Collaborating with state tourism officials and with the Governor’s office, Willi explained she attended meetings with the goal of keeping Block Island on the radar for the rest of Rhode Island.

Hoping to expand the island’s exposure through social media, Willi reported at the meeting she continues to monitor the council’s Facebook page, which now has “a following of 7,800.” She added that followers on Twitter currently number 1,500, “and [we’re] gaining every day. We are active on Pinterest as well as Instagram.”

Willi has been attending monthly meetings with Gov. Lincoln Chafee, regional tourism directors and with experts from around the state, which she said she found “educational” and will continue through December of 2014.

Reviewing the Tourism Council’s advertising campaign in fall of 2012, Willi pointed out that it had gone well, with “the best return on investment [drawn] from TripAdvisor and Facebook ads.” She said, “We did some mobile [ads] as well on” Noting web and mobile sites continue to be updated daily, she said the contact list for e-blasts has grown to 16,000.

Recalling a survey done last fall identifying three priority needs within the town, Willi said she had joined one of the groups formed to address them: the Tourism Services Subcommittee. It is committed to supporting critical services to the island’s visitors, among them trash removal and maintenance and improvement of bathrooms and the beach pavilion. The subcommittee has already met a number of times, Willi said, and has “secured a spot on the Town Council agenda to discuss our ideas in January.”

Another area that Willi thought important to promote was the new tax-exempt status on the sale of art in Rhode Island. Having met with the Director of the State Council of the Arts, Randall Rosenberg, she arranged a meeting with him and local artists on-island last year to discuss the ramifications of the new tax status.

She said the council would continue to advertise and promote the tax-exempt status, which should have significant economic effects on local artists.

Working on the BI Magazine

Willi also said she’d met with Fraser and Betty Lang, the publishers of the Block Island Magazine, which was on track to be published March 1.

To that end, Fraser Lang and Lisa Stiepock, editor of the magazine, attended the January council meeting. Stiepock presented two final variations on this year’s cover — one a pastoral scene taken of a rolling hillside facing Old Harbor in the distance and the other of a family climbing up the stairs at the Bluffs.

There was some discussion on whether or not the pastoral one might be too generic — that is, depicting a scene found in any ocean community within the state — while the one at the Bluffs was clearly unique to the island. Stiepock suggested that for the future the group might think about whether they’d “want a branded look.” That is, she asked the council, “Do you want a quintessential Block Island look?”

In the end, most council members preferred the second version, but wished for brighter colors. Stiepock reminded them the cover would be overlaid with the magazine title and logo: “Block Island: Close to Home, A World Away.” However, she said she’d make the suggested changes.

Fraser Lang, while distributing copies of the Wedding Magazine, noted there had been 103 weddings on the island last year. He also announced that the newly refurbished site is now live. It features content from The Block Island Times family of publications and is still evolving. “We intend to work closely with both the Tourism Council and the Chamber of Commerce to increase business for the island,” he said.

New members step up

President Zena Clark welcomed new council members Julie Fuller and Sven Risom. Although Fuller was not present, she had indicated her willingness to take up the office of treasurer vacated when Martha Ball recently stepped down. Likewise, Risom agreed to be appointed secretary, an office previously held by Shirley Kessler, who also resigned from the council last month.

Willi announced that hotel tax for October was up 10 percent for the same period last year — from $8,262 to $9.339.

The next meeting is set for Jan. 28 at 11 a.m.

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