Resilient Rhode Island: Thriving through Tourism and Tradition this Summer

Heather R. Singleton
Interim President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association

As the interim president and CEO of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, I am delighted to usher in another bustling summer season in our vibrant state. While the Washington Bridge reconstruction in Providence has posed traffic challenges throughout the year thus far, causing unexpected disruptions for commuters and local businesses, Rhode Island’s hospitality and tourism industry has proven its resilience, continuing to offer a diverse range of attractions in every corner of the state.

Rhode Island Commerce’s "All That" marketing campaign which debuted earlier this year has been pivotal in showcasing Rhode Island's best offerings, from its pristine beaches and bustling towns to its renowned culinary scene. By collaborating with state organizations and government entities, this initiative aims to attract visitors from near and far, highlighting our state's unique appeal. This collaboration not only promotes tourism but also supports local businesses, helping to create a thriving and sustainable community.

Summer in Rhode Island offers more than just an influx of tourists; it provides valuable employment opportunities for high school students and college kids on summer break. The RI Hospitality Education Foundation (RIHEF) plays a key role in training many of these young workers through ProStart® and the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Empowering Youth Program, equipping them with important and valuable skills and knowledge for careers within the hospitality industry. The foundational training and firsthand opportunities offered by RIHEF not only nurtures professional development but also lays the groundwork for future careers.

Restaurants and family-owned businesses are not only integral to Rhode Island's culinary landscape, but also within the community, providing employment for thousands of residents and serving as the backdrop for countless cherished moments. From Chelo’s Hometown Bar & Grille to Gregg's Restaurants & Taverns, to Twin Oaks Restaurant, Wright's Farm Restaurant, and more, these iconic establishments highlight multiple generations of family ownership and have been woven into the fabric of our state's identity. They represent the enduring spirit of Rhode Island, providing not just meals but memories for residents and visitors alike.

Family-owned businesses are the heartbeat of Rhode Island’s hospitality industry. They serve as both culinary destinations and community cornerstones, offering a unique blend of history and tradition. Through generations, these establishments have survived economic downturns, adapting, and evolving while retaining their core identities. Their resilience mirrors that of the broader hospitality sector, making them integral players in Rhode Island's economic vitality.

Additionally, these businesses serve as an entry point for many young workers into the hospitality industry offering practical, direct experience and mentorship. RIHEF’s training programs, in conjunction with the opportunities provided by these establishments, help equip young workers with the skills needed for successful careers in hospitality. From kitchen apprenticeships to front-of-house training, these jobs not only help sustain the local economy, but also support the professional growth of the state’s next generation.

The bustling summer season amplifies the importance of the hospitality industry, as visitors flock to Rhode Island's scenic destinations and explore its culinary scene. The increased patronage helps sustain local business and reinforces their role in the state's economy. For many travelers, enjoying a meal at a local or family-owned restaurant is a highlight of their Rhode Island experience, a testament to the enduring appeal of these businesses.

Despite current hurdles, Rhode Island's hospitality sector remains vibrant and adaptive. Through collaborative efforts, innovative marketing campaigns, and dedication to supporting local business, the state continues to offer visitors and residents alike many unforgettable experiences.

This summer let’s celebrate all that Rhode Island has to offer, from its scenic destinations to its thriving culinary scene, proving that our state is connected by much more than its bridges!