One morning last week I attended the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau’s annual Tourism Industry Breakfast at the Courtyard by Marriott in Billerica. State Representative Tom Golden kept things moving as the Master of Ceremonies of the event. State Senator Eileen Donoghue, the co-chair of the legislature’s committee on tourism explained that tourism is all about jobs and the economy. In 2010, 18 million tourists visited Massachusetts with 25% of them coming to the Merrimack Valley. Tourism is the third largest industry in Massachusetts. It’s not only critical to jobs and the economy but also to our transportation infrastructure. On top of that, tourism adds $1 billion in revenue to state and local government. Senator Donoghue also explained that the then-pending casino legislation had been amended to avoid harming cultural destinations and that each year, $8 million of the revenue derived from casinos would be dedicated to local cultural resources.
The next speaker was Tony D’Agostino, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. He began by defining a tourist as someone who stays overnight in a hotel or who travels more than 50 miles one-way to get to a destination. He explained that in 2010, Massachusetts was visited by 17.2 million domestic tourists and 1.9 million international tourists. Most of the domestic tourists come from other parts of Massachusetts followed by those from New York and from the other New England states. Most come by privately owned vehicles. The single biggest reason they come to Massachusetts is to visit family. Most of the international visitors come from Western Europe but Brazil and Argentina are rapidly growing departure points for Massachusetts tourists. Mr. D’Agostino finished by saying that one of the best things about jobs in the tourism industry is that they can’t be outsourced.
Next came CVB Executive Director Deb Belanger who gave a comprehensive report on the accomplishments of the Bureau during the past year. The final speaker was Tonia Truax from tripadvisor.com, who advised those in the hotel, restaurant, and visitor attraction business on how that very useful website works and how they might optimize it to their benefit.