Commentary: Just How Did The Raimondo Administration Allow The Botched Tourism Campaign?

Mar 29, 2016

Screen capture of
Credit Aaron Read

Is anyone home at the Statehouse? Did the governor go to Davos after all?

Whatever one thinks about the Raimondo Administration’s new cooler-warmer passive aggressive tourism branding, there is an undisputable fact about the new website: It’s a disaster.

Even a cursory stroll through the visitrhodeisland website turns up so much silliness and outright misinformation that the state p.r. people ought to be ashamed. One wonders why taxpayers have to pay for this junk. It's fine to land the big ad agency, but we deserve better than the interns.

First off, one of Rhode Island’s great attractions is our food culture. The website celebrates this, but also steers readers to Jerry Remy’s Restaurant in Fall River and Panera Bread in North Dartmouth and North Attleboro. For the out-of-staters who put this together, let’s note that all these venues are in Massachusetts. So Rhode Island taxpayers are paying to steer diners to the Bay State.

It gets worse. Under the heading of 'Who’s Cooking' comes a colossal embarrassment. The photos of noted chefs include both George Germon of Al Forno and Matt Jennings of Farmstead. Germon is dead. Jennings moved his restaurant to Boston more than a year ago. Over the years, few RI chefs were as well-known as Germon, so once again our state government can be a national laughingstock.

Persimmon, a fabulous Bristol eatery, is closed. The restaurant is moving to Hope Street in Providence. This was announced a while back, but whoever put together the site apparently didn’t notice. For the record, this great restaurant plans to open in the capital city sometime in May.

The site has a RI Monthly blog on dining that mentions a bunch of places to have Easter Brunch. That’s fine except the website and slogan were rolled out on Monday, the day after Easter. Maybe all these same eateries will be serving Easter brunch next year, but who knows?

That same blog lists a bunch of obscure foodie events, but doesn’t even mention one of the best events in the state: The Newport Restaurant Week, which runs from April 1 to 10. So we’ll give you the information – it includes nearly 50 participating restaurants in Newport and Bristol counties, where diners can savor three-course, prix lunch menus for $16 and  three-course, prix dinner offerings for $35.

For more information, consult, not the new visit state site.

By the way, Newport Restaurant Week isn’t new; it has been around since 2006.

Then there is the horrible writing. On food, the web piece cites "Rhode Island’s diverse multi-cultural base."

Which intern wrote that one? Don’t they mean multi-cultural or diverse population? Are they talking about a political base or a U.S. Navy base?

Then there was the roll-out. Who holds a media event at 5 p.m., unless you want to bury something? One would think that with all the very well-paid flacks the Raimondo Administration (even some of the kids  earn more than Rhode Island's veteran journalists) has that they could have done a nice event earlier in the day featuring representatives of the state’s restaurant and tourist industry. Maybe even some appetizers for those attending. But this isn't as big a failure as the lack of basic proofreading of the new website.

And the hits just keep coming. The golf course depicted on the site  is the very, very private Newport Country Club. It's a wonderful Donald Ross layout, but unless you know someone who lives in a very large mansion on Bellevue Avenue, no tourist is teeing  it up there. The website also appears to use the very same language  as a Canadian ski resort. And the baseball diamond depicted is not McCoy Stadium.

Perhaps the most lamentable thing about all this is the utter lack of damage control from the Raimondo Administration. No one, from the governor on down has come forward to take ownership of this mess, reminding Rhode Islanders of former Gov. Don Carcieri's response to the 38 Studios bankruptcy or Ed DiPrete's silence on the credit union collapse. Is anybody accountable, or are we witnessing the usual Rhode Island shuffle. So far, not a word from Raimondo, Pryor or anyone else involved in this fiasco.

And where is the General Assembly oversight?? Asleep again, apparently.

Makes one long for the much parodied Joe Garrahy-era slogan --"The Biggest Little State In the Union."

Note to the governor – whoever in your large p.r. contingent allowed this to happen ought to be called on the carpet. This stuff should be fine grist for late-night comics.