Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Thank you for inviting me here today. It's good to have you all together - pulling for the expansion of one of our key economic sectors.
The travel and tourism industries have not been immune from the effects of the global recession, but tourism in Massachusetts is regaining its footing and is again our third-largest industry. Fortunately for all of us, the "fundamentals" of this industry are sound. Massachusetts is still a great place to visit.
We are home to some of America's icons: The Red Sox. Harvard University, MIT and other great universities. Tanglewood. Our capital city is so steeped in history that it is on "must see" lists for Americans and international visitors who want to experience the cradle of revolution and freedom up close. Salem, Gloucester and Lexington. Outdoors, we have Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, the Blackstone Valley during the summer months, and easily-accessible mountains like Wachusetts for winter sports. There's Woodman's for salty fried clams and historic New Bedford Harbor. The "Big E" out west - I go every year. And of course - I'll let my personal bias show a bit - we have Berkshire County combining the natural beauty and restfulness of a quiet countryside with a high concentration of world-class performing and visual arts and fabulous local food. From fall foliage to winter landscapes and hundreds of miles of New England coast line - it is, as we say, "all here."
Our creative economy and cultural talent pool is globally renowned: from the MFA to the Pops to the Boston Symphony Orchestra to the jazz and chamber music scenes. And increasingly the world has an appetite for all things Massachusetts as anyone who watched the Oscars this year found out. "The Town," "The Social Network," "The Fighter" - all set and filmed in Massachusetts.
Our natural gifts will shine no matter the economic or seasonal climate. Our task, of course, is to make sure that we make them accessible, affordable and fun for families and travelers who come to our Commonwealth. And I commend you all for doing a great job.
We will continue to promote our unique assets and exceptional destinations around the world because each additional visitor translates into a stronger economy and more jobs. The tourism industry supports over 120,000 jobs helping the 18 million visitors to our state every year. Like the rest of our economy, the tourism sector has turned the bend and is emerging quickly from the recession. The story at our hotels reflects that: from 2009 to 2010, room occupancy is up 9% to over 62%. Rooms sold are up 9% and room revenue is up 11% to $2.4 billion in 2010 alone.
All told, tourists add about $14 billion to our economy each year. We are committed to supporting and advancing this huge sector of our economy, just as we are focused on securing Massachusetts' leadership in the innovation industries, in health care and in education.
In August, as part of a broader economic development bill, we created the Massachusetts Marketing Partnership, a new umbrella agency comprised of the state's marketing and trade offices. It's aimed at marketing Massachusetts domestically and promoting our many strengths abroad. I'm confident this will help us do an even better job at promoting our Commonwealth.
It's working. Massachusetts tourism actually gained international market share during the recession: more and more of our visitors come from other countries. We have ambitious travel outreach programs in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Ireland and we are growing our investment in Canada. Our relatively small state now ranks sixth in the nation for attracting international tourists. I had a chance personally to make the case for the Commonwealth last week in London at a breakfast with British media outlets and publications that cater to tourists. I can tell you, they were particularly interested to hear about the new MFA wing that was designed by a British architect, about tours of movie scenes and about "green touring" options. The Tea Party museum? Not so much.
The bigger picture for the Massachusetts economy continues to brighten as well. In February, we gained over 15,000 new jobs and our unemployment rate is well below the national average. Yesterday, two major international ratings agencies reaffirmed our bond rating as AA+, citing our responsible fiscal management and positive economic outlook. Investors are paying attention: since we announced our fiscal year 2012 budget proposal revenue from bond sales has gone up dramatically and our borrowing costs have gone down. Thanks to the choices we've made--and continue to make--Massachusetts is leading the nation out of the global recession and firmly set on a growth trajectory.
Domestically, we will aggressively promote the Commonwealth via television, radio advertising and with an increased emphasis on cost-effective, innovative digital marketing. MOTT has some very exciting and successful programs marketing Massachusetts as an LGBT destination, as a "green" mecca and sharing our reputation for tolerance, multi-culturalism and diversity. We are a tolerant people, the home of equality - we should always invite others to celebrate that with us.
The people of Massachusetts welcomed me here 40 years ago and since then it has been Massachusetts people and institutions that have given me every opportunity to succeed. The people of our state are generous, kind and entrepreneurial. We are known the world over for our spirit of can-do optimism. In these times and others that's a magnet for visitors. Thank you all for what you do.