May 21, 2024

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Daily Hampshire Gazette – Massachusetts tourism officials eye historic opportunities

3 min read
Reenactors dump tea into the Boston Harbor to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party in  2023.

Reenactors dump tea into the Boston Harbor to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party in 2023.
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

Last month’s Boston Tea Party anniversary celebration was “just the tip of the iceberg” as Massachusetts prepares to leverage a series of upcoming historical anniversaries to market the state and draw in millions of tourists, the state’s top tourism official said last week.

The reenactment of the 1773 protest by the Sons of Liberty drew large crowds, despite cold December temperatures. Between 15,000 and 18,000 onlookers ventured to Griffin’s Wharf on Dec. 16 to watch reenactors dump tea in the harbor 250 years after the original protest, according to a staff member for Rep. Mindy Domb, who co-chairs the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.

The tea party reenactment kicked off a series of 250th anniversary celebrations over the next three years, as the semiquincentennial of the American Revolution approaches.

In their economic development plan released in December, Gov. Maura Healey’s administration identified “tourism and culture” as one of two sectors that are a priority to build up over the next few years, following similar models to the life sciences and health care industries’ growth in the state.

“And, we are coming up on a historic milestone: the 250th anniversary of the founding of the nation, which started with the ‘shot heard ‘round the world,’ the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s ride, the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and so many other iconic historical moments from our state,” the plan says. “With all of this, we have an opportunity to leverage tourism and culture into a much bigger impact economic driver, and should be a national leader.”

In 2022, the state’s tourism industry accounted for $24.2 billion in domestic and international spending, 21 million domestic and international travelers, $1.9 billion in state and local taxes and 131,200 jobs in Massachusetts, according to the administration.

The economic development plan calls for an increase in annual funding to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (MOTT).

“Recent spending and focus on tourism have been limited and fragmented in the state. To become a leader, and to own the 250th, the Healey-Driscoll Administration proposes stronger convening and coordination and increased investments in marketing and branding to the Massachusetts Office of Tourism and Travel,” the economic development plan says.

Since the plan was published last month, the state’s fiscal outlook has changed. Healey made budget cuts last week — the first mid-year spending cuts in seven years — and budget writers agreed to base next year’s state budget on a minimal increase in state tax revenues.

Increased tourism spending would bolster domestic and international travel into the state and drive economic growth, the plan says. Healey’s approach to spending on the tourism office next year will come into focus when she files her annual budget next week.

Other significant historical dates that MOTT has identified for potential major events include: Paul Revere’s midnight ride and the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 2025, the battle of Bunker Hill in June 2025, Evacuation Day in March 2026 and the reading of the Declaration of Independence on Independence Day in 2026.

Tall ships also are expected to return to Boston Harbor in the summer of 2026 as part of the Sail250 maritime celebration of the founding of the United States, which Sail Boston Director Dusty Rhodes says is expected to draw “hopefully 5 million” visitors.

Meanwhile, MOTT Executive Director Kate Fox said at a Massachusetts Marketing Partnership Board meeting on Monday that there was a “great increase in traffic from last year on the international market.”

The state’s tourism office partnered with travel agencies in the United Kingdom last year to train agents “so they can better sell the Massachusetts product,” and participated in international marketing schemes alongside other states.

In ramping up MOTT operations, partially in anticipation of 250th celebrations, Fox said the office is also planning to bring on more people, launch a new domestic marketing campaign, update its website, put out new research contracts and create a sports marketing plan.

Healey will also host a “2024 Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism” on April 2, called for in the economic development plan to “align industry and create marketing and communication cohesion.”

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