From the Chamber / Bringing tourists to Fairfield

An artist's rendering of the town is featured on the Fairfield Map & Guide.
An artist's rendering of the town is featured on the Fairfield Map & Guide.Contributed photo

This week, tourism professionals from across the state will gather at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford for the annual Conference on Tourism. Fairfield’s Department of Community & Economic Development and the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce will be there to learn from national experts and glean best practices from others in the field.

Tourism is big business in Connecticut, and continues to be one of the main drivers of the state’s economy. According to a report from the state Department of Economic & Community Development, the tourism industry supports over 200,000 jobs, contributes over $14.7 billion in economic activity, and generates $1.7 billion in annual tax revenues. What’s more, these indicators are on the rise and are predicted to grow even more in the years ahead.

Befitting its importance, the state has made significant investments within the past five years to help grow this sector of the economy with the launch of the “Connecticut-Still Revolutionary” branding initiative and corresponding advertising campaign. Fairfield’s Department of Community & Economic Development, working with the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and other local partners, has looked for opportunities to leverage the state’s renewed emphasis on tourism in order to increase visitation, duration of stays and traveler spending to local venues and sites. This effort began in earnest in 2015 with the creation of an arts, cultural and tourism working group to promote joint marketing initiatives. Since that time, with relatively modest resources, the group has worked to:

Develop a Fairfield Town Map & Guide, featuring a beautiful, hand-drawn water color illustration of Fairfield, which is being distributed at more than 280 outlets in the NYC-metro area;

Launch a new, mobile-responsive, tourism-oriented website at www.ExperienceFairfieldCT.org to promote upcoming events and things to do as well as places to eat, stay and shop in Fairfield;

Exhibit at Metro North Getaway Day in Vanderbilt Hall within Grand Central Terminal to promote the “Fairfield Experience” and draw day-trippers or overnight visitors from the city;

Secure a $10,000 grant from the Connecticut Main Street Center to develop a wayfinding and welcome signage master plan;

Create a short video to give visitors a brief glimpse of all that Fairfield has to offer;

Establish a “first of its kind” hotel guest beach pass program that enables participating Fairfield hotels to purchase a limited number of non-resident beach passes which they can provide to their guests to enhance their visit to Fairfield.

Fairfield’s recently completed Economic Development Plan recommends that such efforts to nurture the town’s nascent hospitality and tourism industry continue. The plan notes that accommodation, food service and tourism-related businesses presently comprise seven percent of all establishments in Fairfield, and provide nearly 3,000 jobs.

Collaborative partnerships between the town and other organizations that seek to pool limited resources are indispensable to these endeavors. The town’s Department of Community & Economic Development can play a vital role as convener, by seeding new ventures, and by helping others discover why it all comes together here in Fairfield.

Mark S. Barnhart is Director of Community & Economic Development for Fairfield.