Tourism, hospitality add up for state’s economy

A native of Portsmouth, Alyson C. Adkins always knew that numbers were her strength, but it was only after taking a hiatus from full-time college that her career aspirations began to take focus. Night classes convinced her that she was right -- 

she was an accountant at heart. At 26, she returned to school, graduating from URI in 1999, and soon after, becoming a CPA. With a five-month-old, Adkins was quick to learn the importance of balancing work and family. To this day, she credits her employer, Sansiveri, Kimball, & Co. with being so supportive.    

WC: Were you always drawn to numbers?

Adkins: Math was always my best subject in school and something that always came easy to me. I also took some accounting classes in high school and that came very easy. 

WC: How did you arrive at Discover Newport? 

Adkins: Discover Newport was my client at Sansiveri. At the time, I was looking for a change from public accounting. When the opportunity arose with Discover Newport, I jumped at it. One of the things when you start a new job is whether you will like the people you work with. Since I had a professional working relationship already, I knew it was a great place to work. It was a very easy transition. 

WC: What is Discover Newport's mission?

Adkins: The mission of Discover Newport is to positively influence the economy of Newport and Bristol Counties which includes Barrington, Bristol, Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth, Tiverton and Warren, by marketing the region as a travel and tourism destination. Additionally, Discover Newport operates the 10,000 square feet Newport Visitors Information Center which offers admission tickets to area attractions and events, maps, brochures, destination information, a convenient place to park and always a hospitable welcome to visitors to the area. Our organization aspires to provide an innovative, accessible and authentic experience that will enrich the lives of visitors to our destination and the residents of our nine coastal communities.

WC: Can you describe the operation a bit. How many employees? How is Discover Newport funded? 

Adkins: We have five departments, administration, sales, marketing, operations and the visitor center. We have 20 full-time employees and 5 year-round part-time employees.  In addition, we hire approximately 10 additional employees to staff in the Visitors Center during our peak tourism months. We are primarily funded by the lodging tax. We receive 42 percent of the lodging tax from the state.

WC: Newport has long enjoyed the reputation as such a beautiful "City by the Sea." How far does that reputation stretch? Does Discover Newport reach out not only across the country, but around the world? 

Adkins: Newport affords the favorable position of being located in the heart of New England, which puts less than “one-tank away” from 10 percent of the U.S. population. Though our target market is travelers who live throughout New England as well as the Mid-Atlantic, we are both a nationally and globally-recognized destination.  If you ever need proof of that, take a stroll on Cliff Walk in the summer or fall—you’re bound to hear many different languages being spoken!

WC: Is Newport still a popular destination for weddings? 

Adkins: Absolutely. Many publications have cited Newport as one of the best wedding destinations in the world and most of our popular wedding venues are booked at least a year out. In fact, we’re seeing more Thursday and Sunday weddings than ever. When couples marry here, it’s more than just a wedding; it’s a destination experience. Friends and family truly have a “wedding experience” here, often with group outings like sailing tours of the harbor, dining downtown or visiting attractions like the mansions, wineries and more. 

WC: Is there a "typical" visitor to Newport? Who comes here? 

Adkins: One of Newport’s greatest assets is that it attracts a diverse array of visitors—everyone from history and architecture buffs to families who are looking for fantastic beaches to outdoor enthusiasts who take advantage of our miles of trails that weave through wildlife sanctuaries and state parks. We have a vibrant arts and culture community—we are home to the legendary Newport Folk Festival and Newport Jazz Festival, after all—and gourmands will enjoy the amazing culinary talent Newport and Rhode Island is known for. Oh, and adventurists? Sky-diving, kite-boarding, surfing—there’s plenty to get your heart pumping around here! 

WC: We know hotels and restaurants and shops benefit from tourists. But what are some other ancillary benefits that the tourism industry brings to the area?  

Adkins: Tourism is the fourth largest private sector employer in Rhode Island, generating more than $4 million in revenue annually. In fact, it’s estimated that one out of every 10 Rhode Islanders have a job related to tourism. And when one typically thinks of “tourism,” they think of the leisure travelers, but business travel make up an impressive percentage of our travelers. These travelers are a critical component to “shoulder season” business—business during the quieter months. 

WC: I will not drag you into the "Cooler, Warmer..." saga, but... What makes a good tourism campaign? What is it you are selling when you reach out to people? 

Adkins: A good tourism campaign, in my opinion, captures the essence and authenticity of a destination. We are ‘selling,’ for lack of a better term, an authentic experience like none other. 

WC: Why should tourism play an important role in Rhode Island's economy? 

Adkins: Tourism already plays a critical role in Rhode Island’s economy. This year, tourism and hospitality was reiterated as one of the state’s seven broad growth areas—an area that sees potential for economic development. I love that I get to come to work every day and be a part of a team that spreads the word about our unique and extraordinary little place.