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R.I. Commerce launches new state tourism campaign, garners skeptical reactions

Numbers of tourists, size of travel economy rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in 2021

The campaign’s advertising features local eateries including Pizza J, The Chanler, West Side Diner, Moniker Brewery and Gee Gee’s Southern Cuisine alongside attractions like Block Island and Westminster Street.
The campaign’s advertising features local eateries including Pizza J, The Chanler, West Side Diner, Moniker Brewery and Gee Gee’s Southern Cuisine alongside attractions like Block Island and Westminster Street.

On Feb. 21, Rhode Island Commerce launched “All That,” a new statewide tourism marketing campaign which aims to drive revenue into the Ocean State.

The campaign consists of video, print and billboard advertisements, sprouting variations of the “All That” slogan superimposed on Ocean State-related visuals — with images of the state’s landmarks, eateries and outdoor activities. The marketing materials will be featured nationally through a combination of social, digital and broadcast advertisements.

The campaign’s advertising features local eateries including Pizza J, The Chanler, West Side Diner, Moniker Brewery and Gee Gee’s Southern Cuisine alongside attractions like Block Island and Westminster Street. 

“The goal is to showcase the diversity of people and places in Rhode Island,” Matthew Touchette, director of public affairs for RI Commerce, wrote in an email to The Herald. “We feel the creative elements of ‘All That’ have captured the essence of the state.”


Plans for a new unified tourism marketing campaign began in early 2023 as an attempt to revive Ocean State tourism following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I started with (RI) Commerce in September 2021, we were still in the throes of COVID and beginning to navigate out of what was known as an unknown space,” said Anika Kimble-Huntley, chief marketing officer for RI Commerce, in the video announcement of the campaign. “I likened 2021 and 2022 as catchup years and an adjustment to the new normal.”

In 2019, Rhode Island hosted 26.2 million visitors — an increase of 3.2% from 2018 — according to a report by Tourism Economics. That year, the total travel economy — which encompasses visitor spending, tourism-related construction and supporting industries — registered $7.9 billion, growing 16% from 2018.

These numbers declined significantly in 2020 with travel restrictions from COVID-19. Visitation to the state fell by 17.5%, while the travel economy shrunk by 30.6%.

Both visitation and the travel economy rebounded to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021. These metrics further grew in 2022 when Little Rhody hosted 27.7 million visitors and the travel economy reached $7.9 billion.

RI Commerce worked with the Florida-based Zimmerman Agency in the campaign’s development process. Zimmerman created three separate campaign ideas, all of which were presented to leaders of the state’s several regional tourism councils. These leaders then chose their two favorite campaigns to be presented to potential national visitors and local Rhode Islanders, with “All That” selected via a survey of this sample.

Funding for the campaign came from the state’s 5% hotel tax, as well as a portion of the $10.6 million tourism and hospitality grant awarded to Rhode Island by the Federal Economic Development Administration in 2021, according to Touchette. He added that the total cost for the photoshoot and corresponding production was $482,623.74. 

RI Commerce also partnered with the Jennifer Hudson Show, a national talk-show program featuring “celebrity guests, viral sensations, music and a destination to celebrate exceptional community heroes,” according to the show’s website. Members of the show’s team traveled to Rhode Island to experience first-hand many of the attractions highlighted by the “All That” campaign.

But some Rhode Island locals had negative reactions to the campaign and its new slogan. The popular Instagram page What’s Going On In Rhode Island shared a post on Feb. 22 asking the public “What do you think of the new Rhode Island slogan?” The post garnered over 800 comments and replies.


“All that … road work,” read the most liked comment on the post, garnering 696 likes and 12 supportive replies — one of which read “Rhode* work.”

Another commenter joked: “All that … failing infrastructure.”

The comments follow recent closures of the Interstate Highway 195 Washington Bridge, which has caused significant traffic delays for those driving across the state. Both commenters did not respond to a request for additional comments from The Herald.

“Rhode Islanders are the state’s most important brand ambassadors,” Touchette wrote in response to these comments. “It's important to remember that negative comments can be viewed by both locals and potential visitors. Any negative remarks may influence a visitor’s decision to choose Rhode Island over another destination.”

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Touchette also noted the significant economic boost provided by tourism, cautioning commenters from dissuading visitors who generate “dollars that would otherwise be paid by residents if travelers are not coming.” He highlighted that “each household in Rhode Island would need to be taxed an additional $2,120 to replace the visitor-generated taxes received by the state in 2022.”

“It benefits all Rhode Islanders to be positive about the state and welcome visitors with open arms,” Touchette said.

Regardless of its marketing, Rhode Island tourism relies heavily on the local communities, businesses and organizations that call Little Rhody home. 

In the press release which announced the campaign, Governor Dan McKee noted that while “tourism is one of our state’s largest economic drivers,” it is the Ocean State’s “residents, who continue to show up offering best-in-class experiences, that propel us forward as an internationally acclaimed destination.”

“This campaign is not only a testament to what makes Rhode Island ‘All That’ but also a testament to our community that refuses to be anything but extraordinary,” he added.

Tom Li

Tom Li is a Metro Editor covering the Health & Environment and Development & Infrastructure beats. He is from Pleasanton, California, and is concentrating in Economics and International & Public Affairs. He is an avid RIPTA passenger and enjoys taking (and criticizing) personality tests in his free time.

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