State Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz announced the formation of a new state panel to promote tourism at the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce in Middletown on Oct. 16.

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Tourism will conduct several meetings and hearings in the coming months with local residents and businesses. After these meetings, the panel will make policy recommendations to the Connecticut General Assembly in hopes of strengthening the state’s tourism industry.

“Tourism should not be simply viewed as a cost but as an investment in our economy that creates jobs and can help pay for many of the programs and services vital to our residents,” Aresimowicz said in an Oct. 16 statement.

The Blue Ribbon Panel aims to address how much of the state budget should be allocated to tourism campaigns and how to find original ways to bolster Connecticut’s economy through tourism.

New Haven city officials hope to see integration of the Blue Ribbon Panel with already existing institutions that aim to improve tourism in the Elm City and statewide, such as the Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau, an experienced body that has conducted extensive research on promoting tourism in Connecticut.

“We support the [Aresimowicz] efforts but we really would encourage him to think bigger in terms of working with the existing resources” said Andrew Wolf, director of the Arts, Culture and Tourism Division for the city of New Haven.

Wolf noted that New Haven receives over two million visitors every year, and that New Haven’s tourism industry can considerably benefit from expanding the facilities available to visitors.

The statewide tourism marketing budget has declined from $15 million in 2012 to $6.4 million this fiscal year, according to the Connecticut Office of Tourism.

Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 said that the Elm City has been doing a great job in attracting tourists. However, he added that the New Haven tourism industry could be improved by fostering new relationships, noting Mayor Toni Harp’s trip to China over the summer for an official visit.

“Tourism in New Haven can be promoted by a variety of ways,” Catalbasoglu said. This incentivizes the people there to visit New Haven.”

Tourism in Connecticut is a $14.7 billion industry that produces $1.7 billion in total tax revenue according to the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

Ishana Aggarwal | ishana.aggarwal@yale.edu