Tourists are choosing Newport at a record-breaking pace. Discover Newport CEO Evan Smith tells Rhode Island Public Radio that 2015 is shaping up to be one of the best years he’s seen since he began promoting the island getaway 27 years ago.
“The big increase that we’re seeing is in experiential tourism, so people are buying more interesting tours, more walking tours, more helicopter tours, going sport-fishing, kite-boarding. They’re after experiences, and so a big trend we’re seeing in travel right now is the search for authentic experiences,” he says.
Tourism is the fourth largest private sector employer in Our Backyard. With the national and international travel industry growing at such a fast pace, there is great potential for Rhode Island to earn an even bigger market share of regional tourism dollars.
“Our culinary base is expanding tremendously. The growth in the culinary arts has come faster than I expected. Food is becoming the marquee event for why people are traveling and I am just amazed at how many new restaurants we’ve opened and how many people are making their decision to come to Newport because of the food,” Smith says.
Nearly 3 million people live within 50 miles of Newport. Go just 50 more miles out and the market expands to nearly 11 million potential drive-cationers. And then there are the meetings and conventions, international travelers, cruise ships and motor coach tours. In fact, about 40 cruise ships are expected to visit by the end of October.
“I believe the magic of Newport is this,” Smith says. “It is a special place; a small American destination that is full of architecture, of history, of culture, but also full of wonderful recreational opportunities. Then you lay all that over a wonderful culinary base and you have all the ingredients for a fabulous experience.”