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As part of an effort to grow tourism in Middlesex County, the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a bus tour of Middlesex County’s Hidden Gems that stopped at local spots including the Riverwind Inn, the Connecticut River Museum, and the Goodspeed Opera House.
“The idea of the whole regional tourism is to have a grassroots effort to bring that level up,” said Middlesex Chamber of Commerce member Don DeVivo, adding that in Connecticut every $1 spent on promoting tourism returns $8 in in-state spending. “We thought that in the midst of lobbying for more money, we had to do something to raise awareness.”
DeVivo, who works for New England-based bus service DATTCO, provided the tour bus that visited the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, the Riverwind Inn in Deep River, the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, and ended at the Brainerd House Bed and Breakfast in Haddam on May 30.
DeVivo described it as “a tourism tour for tourism people.”
The idea was “to get two or three businesses to open their doors and do a behind the scenes tour, something people can’t get somewhere else,” DeVivo said. “This is the first of an effort to A, bring the private side [of business] into the equation, and also to get more of a grassroots effort to get market tourism back in the State of Connecticut.”
Stacie and Mike DiNello have been the innkeepers of the Riverwind Inn for more than a year now and were excited to participate in the first Hidden Gem Tour. They prepared by networking with local merchants, getting items for a Deep River gift bag that went to each tour-goer.
Supporting small local businesses is a main goal of the chamber.
“We want to say, ‘Hey, there’s lots of stuff for you to do right here so let’s support the local businesses.’ There’s a lot of activities that are out here that not only people out of state, but people in the state can enjoy,” DeVivo said.
While the DiNellos have had guests come from areas as far as Australia, Sweden, Belgium, and Bermuda, having a chance to connect with the 30 or so people from the region was a different sort of opportunity.
“It was a good experience. The whole tour program is a good experience because it gets people to recognize what a great tourist area this part of the state is,” said Mike DiNello. “The state needs to promote the state of Connecticut as a really good tourist destination.
“These are the little things that are going to help get the word out about what a cool destination area it is,” said DiNello.
For more information on upcoming Middlesex Xhamber of Commerce initiative, visit middlesexchamber.com.
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