HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut has an image problem with New York just down the road, a state tourism official says.
Hoping to find a fix, the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau, organized last summer, made its first foray into New York City this week to show off the state to corporate meeting and event planners.
"As much as we'd like to think people know about Connecticut because we're right next door, it's not always so," said Michael Van Parys, president of the group. "What Hartford sometimes lacks is any sort of a reputation."
New Yorkers may be acquainted with Connecticut, but may not likely be familiar with its shoreline, capital district in Hartford or even the popular Mystic tourist destination in southeastern Connecticut, he said.
The convention and sports promotion group, responding to requests from member businesses, is seeking to boost Connecticut among corporate meeting planners. Van Parys said the meeting planning business is a "great market" that can boost revenue for a host of Connecticut businesses such as hotels, restaurants, limousine companies and attractions.
As the economy slowly improves, companies are again gathering their staffs in cities far from home for conventions, conferences, staff meetings and other events. During the recession, companies relied on websites, conference calls and other forms of technology to avoid travel and lodging costs.
And although companies still rely on technology to bring staff together, businesses are again on the road.
"What I see is definitely an uptick," said Kim Sullivan of the Event Planners Association. "It's definitely opening up and moving on."
Companies are using a combination of travel and office-based technology for corporate gatherings, she said. But as the economy improves, generating more revenue and an easier route to profitability, business traveling is again in favor.
"Nothing beats that personal face-to-face meeting," Sullivan said.
The return of conferences and business meetings and the size of the New York market is why 20 or more Connecticut businesses traveled to Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Thursday to pitch the state at a reception. Businesses included hotels such as Omni New Haven, Sheraton Stamford, Hilton Mystic, the Connecticut Convention Center and Water's Edge Resort & Spa in Westbrook.
"We're in a great position in Connecticut, between two of the largest markets, Boston and New York," said Randy Fiveash, director of the state Office of Tourism. "We're in their backyards. We can fish in those waters and have some great success."
New York is Connecticut's No. 1 out-of-state market, bringing more visitors than from any other state, he said. State tourism officials are working with the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau to market the state, Fiveash said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has launched the state's Still Revolutionary tourism campaign and significantly increased tourism funding shortly after taking office in January 2011. The budget he sent to the legislature last month proposes to eliminate regional tourism offices to save $1.6 million.
The Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau was founded in July to replace the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitor Bureau, Van Parys said. The new group was established in response to a distinct need to market the state rather than just the Hartford region, he said.