A setting sun streamed through the huge industrial windows of the WaterFire Arts Center on Valley Street in Providence last Thursday as if to provide a natural allegory for the overarching theme of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (PWCVB) Annual Meeting and awards ceremony – the future of tourism and hospitality in Rhode Island is bright.
“Tourism is a key piece of our economy. I’ve always believed in the value and power of tourism and hospitality to create jobs,” said Governor Gina Raimondo. “I really am here to congratulate you on what has been a banner year.”
Raimondo said that last summer’s tourism numbers set records across the state, including a 95-plus percent occupancy rate in the state’s hotels. The governor said that continuing to invest in the hospitality and tourism industries – alongside infrastructure and technological innovation jobs – would be key in continuing to grow Rhode Island’s economy.
“We’re going to continue to invest because there’s a lot more to do,” she said.
Investing in tourism is something that Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian knows all about. The city’s cooperative partnership with T.F. Green Airport has allowed for the extension of one of their runways, which has, in just a year, allowed the airport to go from offering no international flights to offering more direct flights to Ireland than any other country, and the airport has tripled the amount of direct destinations offered.
“As you all know, it was not long ago when the city and the airport weren’t necessarily the best of friends, but…the expansion of T.F. Green is complete now,” Avedisian said. “And if you had told me I’d be saying that 15 years I would have definitely thought that you were crazy.”
Avedisian also mentioned that the new Hyatt Place Hotel, opening next year, would give Warwick the distinction of having more hotel rooms than any other town or city in Rhode Island. Additionally, Proclamation Brewery will be moving onto Jefferson Boulevard, the Warwick Mall saw new development and an increased occupancy rate and the Pontiac Mills project is on target.
“All in all, a great year and we look forward to an even better 2018,” he said.
Warwick had a strong showing at the awards ceremony, as the Crowne Plaza Warwick hotel was named the Member of the Year. The hotel’s general manager, Lynne Oscarson, accepted the award.
“The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick was selected because of its assistance with the PWCVB sales efforts, particularly in the development of a military reunion sales segment that yielded nearly $500,000 in direct spending in Warwick in one month last year,” stated a PWCVB press release following the event.
Four other Warwick businesses and employees earned Recognition of Service Excellence (ROSE) awards from the PWCVB, including: Erica Flaxington, event coordinator at the Iron Works Tavern; Jason Patrusevich, executive sous chef at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Warwick; Amilcar Silva, night auditor and shuttle driver at the Hampton Inn & Suites Warwick Airport and; Anne Holst, curator and president of the Clouds Hill Victorian House Museum.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza gave a speech that hit on two main points. One, his excitement about Providence’s ongoing renewal, citing 60 construction projects that are either in the pipeline to begin or underway, and two, about the potential for growth ahead.
“The city of Providence has nothing less than the potential to be one of America’s great cities, and what we’re seeing are the first steps that we’re taking in that direction,” Elorza said, pointing to Providence’s highly-ranked cuisine scene, rankings as a “fun” city and not failing to mention how the building the event was held in was a reclamation success story in and of itself.
“There’s something special about this building that you come to appreciate it more and more with each visit you have here,” he said.
The event was an opportunity for Rhode Island hospitality businesses to be shown appreciation for what they do best – giving outsiders a taste of the best of what the Ocean State has to offer.
“Everybody loves Rhode Island,” Raimondo said. “The best food, the best beaches, the best cities, the best culture, the best people, fantastic parks – you have my full support so that we can keep going and continue to invest, continue to advertise, continue to market and continue to grow our tourism industry, because you’re great at it and a lot of good people can have good jobs.”