- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

BRISTOL, R.I. (AP) - Calling the state’s existing tourism efforts disjointed, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo unveiled a plan Wednesday to boost the industry in Rhode Island that she said could create more than 5,000 jobs over five years.

Raimondo’s plan calls for a statewide tourism marketing campaign, a branding effort highlighting Rhode Island’s offerings as a culinary destination and improved infrastructure, including welcome centers at the state’s borders and highway signage.

It also seeks a closer relationship between Johnson & Wales University, which is known for its travel-tourism and hospitality management program, and the tourism industry to better prepare future employees in the sector.

Raimondo is facing Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and political newcomer Clay Pell, the grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, in the September primary. She unveiled the tourism initiative, part of her overall jobs plan, at the Bristol waterfront.

The plan says Rhode Island is rich in cultural and natural attractions - including beaches, the Newport mansions and WaterFire - but says “our state’s current strategy for investing in tourism is disjointed, underfunded and often overlooked in plans to revive our state’s economy.”

According to Raimondo, the state spends less in the sector than most other states. Investing in tourism would yield millions of dollars of visitor spending, create thousands of new jobs, and bring in much-needed tax revenue, she said.

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