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.

Copyright 2019 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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(3) comments

Logicandreason101

I wonder how MA and NY and PA and any other state with tolls deal with it?

FormerResident

Cut Spending! The more you make, the more you spend. Do they ever learn?

Blavigne

I try think of myself as someone who would want to generate income for the state - not an easy unless I'm Florida...the capital of tourism. Attracting people to CT's tourist attractions is not easy, but if one "thinks outside the box", it can work, but it's not instantaneous. Mystic has great attractions - no doubt, but not enough "advertising" is occurring to attract visitors. If you're traveling along the highway (or even the surrounding towns of Mystic), you don't see much for Mystic attractions - if I saw multi-signs on a sign or billboard along the highway or road, that would get my attention - displaying large logos of retailers and attractions - MAKE ME WANT TO TAKE THAT EXIT AND CHECK IT OUT! Another idea is if the state wants to "collect" money from visitors, initiate an admission fee (not the aquarium of course - they already have one), but don't just charge them. Upon paying a small fee (maybe to enter the attraction), you get a coupon/ticket for a discount on a purchase (the state would make an agreement with the retailers/vendors) - see, if you're going to impose a fee (for anything), GIVE THEM SOMETHING BACK IN RETURN! It's a win-win for both parties - just like bars you go into...some will charge at the door, but give you a ticket for a free draft or house wine (although I'm sure these are far and few between). This is just my opinion of course, but I hope it gives the state something to contemplate...(psst!...just don't impose anymore taxes, ok?!)

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