MYSTIC, CT (WFSB) - Tourism is big business in our state.
Tourism travel brought in $14.7 billion to Connecticut’s economy in 2016.
State statistics show it also generated $1.7 billion in tax revenue and 82,000 jobs.
The talk of bringing back tolls finds tourists and tourism operators saying, ‘no way.’
The state police headquarters at Troop E was once a toll plaza on I-395.
Putting the tolls back to capture out-of-state drivers got a pretty direct answer.
More than a million and a half people from all over the globe visit Mystic and Mistick Village every year.
It’s considered the heart of the state tourism industry. It’s home to Mystic Aquarium, Mystic Seaport and the two Indian gaming casinos.
“Tourism is key to this region. We need to have tourism to drive the dollars to drive our economy and our area is so rich in history,” said Joe Smith, Mohegan Tribal Council.
On Monday, the Chamber of Southeast Connecticut hosted a “fam tour” of popular tourist stops such as the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich, where those who work locally in the industry can talk up the little-known tourist stops.
“So, when they’re refereeing to guests and visitors its firsthand knowledge, it’s the latest and greatest,” said Amanda Ljubicic.
But in this state budget climate where tolls are being reconsidered, many tourists and industry leaders say it would change the industry landscape
“I think it’s definitely going to alter it a little bit, said Merriah Beschinski.
Peter Allen is heading back home to Nova Scotia, but he says if Connecticut put tolls back up., he won’t be visiting again.
“When I go to New York it was $15 just to come across the bridge over the Hudson. Fifteen there and it seemed like every time you turned around another 4 to 5 dollars somewhere,” said Allen.
At Olde Mistick Village, property manager Chris Regan says tolls will be just another tax to deter tourists. He says the hotel occupancy tax is at 15 percent and possibly going up.
“And at the same time, we have the highest gas tax in the country, I think were done being taxed. I think that’s what the tolls are,” said Regan.
“Being local and we’re right off of Route 95 and we’re traveling into Rhode Island and down into the New Haven area and back we’re going to hit a lot of tolls and it’s going to take a lot of money out of our pockets,” said Liz Santillo of Pawcatuck.
As it stands, the governor’s office is proposing to build 50 electronic toll gantry’s across four highways, 95, 91, 84 and the Merritt Parkway. They won’t be installed until at least 2022.