PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Angel Taveras on Monday unveiled a plan that calls for spending $5 million annually to grow tourism in Rhode Island, which he said is a major economic driver.
The Providence mayor said he would increase the state tourism division's budget from $400,000 a year to $2.4 million and undertake a statewide marketing effort to create an "overarching brand" to draw more visitors.
The plan also calls for improvements in infrastructure and public transit; support for the arts, entertainment and cultural heritage industries; development of the "farm to table" food movement; and a website to match hospitality industry graduates with job openings.
The mayor said there's much more that can be done to showcase the state and that the tourism investments in his "Discover Rhode Island" plan should pay for themselves over time in terms of job creation and tax revenue.
"A progressive government understands that our tourism industry is more than an amenity — it is crucial to economic development and to Rhode Island's economic recovery," he said in a message accompanying the plan. "Our state needs to cultivate the tourism economy as it would any other major industry."
Taveras' rivals in the September Democratic primary — Treasurer Gina Raimondo and former Obama administration official Clay Pell — have also unveiled initiatives to boost tourism as part of their jobs plans.
The mayor noted that hospitality and tourism have been central to his economic development plan for the capital and that his administration has worked to develop a unified tourism strategy that includes the Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, the Providence Tourism Council and the Providence-Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau.
His statewide plan suggests expanding tax exemptions for artists and incentives to live in specially designated arts districts.
He also said the state should market its "commitment to diversity," including passage last year of same-sex marriage legislation. He said Providence has specifically marketed to the gay and lesbian community for years.