New state tourism director hopes to work with colleges to expand promotion efforts

Government And Institutions Associated Press

Happy to be back in New Hampshire, the state's new head of travel and tourism also wants to return to school, in a sense, by working with colleges and universities to attract more students.

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Victoria Cimino took over as director of the Division of Travel and Tourism Development this month after eight years away from the state, where she previously held a variety of tourism and marketing jobs, including spokeswoman for the division she now leads. One of her long-term goals is to partner with the education community to highlight why New Hampshire is both an attractive place to visit and to earn a degree.

"Students who choose New Hampshire as the place where they would like to go to college have parents who would like to visit them, and so how can we work closely with the state's colleges and universities to promote New Hampshire as an educational destination — not just a beautiful, inspiring place to visit, but also where you have some of the nation's best colleges and universities," she said.

Such efforts would be aimed not just at American students but also those in other countries, Cimino said. And that would dovetail nicely with another of her goals: continuing the state's efforts to attract foreign tourists.

While most of the division's activities are focused on a core audience of tourists who live within a day's drive of New Hampshire, it also has increased its efforts in overseas markets. Brand USA, a global marketing effort to promote the U.S. as a travel destination, was established through legislation that U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen co-sponsored in 2010 and which recently reauthorized. New Hampshire officials say it is just starting to pay off.

Tourism is New Hampshire's second largest industry, behind manufacturing, and accounts for more than 60,000 jobs statewide. About 34 million visitors spent $4.6 billion in the state during fiscal year 2013, according to the latest data from the Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State University. It estimates that 11 percent of that spending was the result of the tourism division's promotional activities and that every dollar spent by the division brought in $77 in spending by travelers.

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The biggest tourism-related boost to the state budget comes in the form of the rooms and meals tax. The state expects to collect $265 million in rooms and meals taxes this fiscal year, up from $260 million in 2014 and $248 million in fiscal year 2013. Cimino said her main goal is to ensure that number continues to rise, in part by providing support to businesses and including them in cooperative marketing efforts.

"The varied experiences that New Hampshire has within this compact state is so unique to not only the state but the region," she said. "We have the best that New England has to offer, all within a drivable state."

Born in Ohio, Cimino moved to Bedford as a teenager and most recently lived in New York. She said she looks forward to getting reacquainted with her favorite New Hampshire destinations, including downtown Keene, the White Mountains and the Seacoast.

"I love the ocean. When you're a girl from Akron, Ohio, you don't take the ocean for granted," she said. "I've never taken the scenic beauty of New Hampshire for granted."