Evan Smith, President of Discover Newport, said tourism in the Ocean State is booming this July 4th week, and he expects that trend to continue in the coming months.
“We got off to a slow start because the spring was so wet cold, but after we got past Memorial Day things have really kicked off to high gear," Smith said. "Our event calendar [and] the wedding season is in full blossom, and outdoor recreation and other ways to enjoy the Ocean State are really shining this week.”
Smith believes the warm weather will translate to promising prospects for tourism. He expects there to be full crowds through the week - Newport welcomes more than 3 million visitors a year, with 2 million of them arriving in the six-month tourism season.
“I think the economy is holding strong," said Smith. "People are investing record amounts in travel and could actually exceed last year.”
Food and drinks are the largest drivers of tourism revenue, according to Smith, followed by lodging, attractions, then shopping.
In Rhode Island, more than 60 percent of visitors come from Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York. About 20% of visitors come from outside the United States.
“Canada, England, Italy, Germany is the top four [countries]," explained Smith, adding that the region's close proximity to Boston is a strong asset.
"Since we are an hour and a half from Boston.... [they] want to see New England and see the cultural aspect that abounds through our six states.”
Attractions for tourists and residents alike include from historic landmarks like Fort Adams State Park, a free outdoor film series starting at sunset every Thursday through August in various locations in Newport. Other unique summer activities include the Rail Explorers, a scenic outdoor ride through Aquidneck Island and along Narragansett Bay on pedal-powered vehicles, which is debuting its second summer season in Rhode Island.
“Rail explorers are a unique way for people to enjoy what simulates riding a bike but on a rail,” said Smith.
In the lead up to Independence day, Smith recommends people call ahead of time to ensure beach parking spots.
“With these hot temperatures, beach parking lots may fill up fast, so people may get frustrated since they drive long distances and get to a parking lot that’s closed. So, check with your local municipality before you go to make sure there is parking available,” Smith said.
Almost every day this holiday week, there will be various cities holding fireworks across the Ocean State.
“July Fourth is a time to for people to enjoy family outings: Bristol’s July Fourth fireworks, fireworks in the city of Newport, and other cities," said Smith. "It’s a time for family picnics, to get together, and enjoy the best of celebrating our nation’s birth.”