More than 400 people packed into the Connecticut Convention Center Thursday for the 2017 Connecticut Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
Tourism is a $15 billion industry in Connecticut that employs more than 80,000 people.
This year, Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed $8.3 million for marketing. If legislators approve it, that would be an increase from the $6.5 million the industry received the two years prior.
Industry leaders said they believe when you invest money in tourism, you get money in return. For example, the hotel tax generates roughly $120 million every year for the state.
But, there are growing concerns the tourism budget will be cut as the state faces a combined $5 billion deficit over the next two years.
“There’s a lot of hard choices ahead and I don’t envy those who have to make them, but hopefully there’s broad recognition of the economic impact of investing in tourism. It really is an investment that pays back significant returns not only to the economy, but to the budget,” Tim Sullivan, the deputy commissioner for the Department of Economic and Community Development, said.
Business leaders spent much of Thursday networking, trying to find more ways to collaborate and attract out-of-state visitors to Connecticut.
“The more people we can attract to come here from out of state, out of the country, to stay here, stay longer, stay overnight, spend more money, the better it is for the Connecticut economy,” said Sullivan.