About the Council

Introduction

Since its creation in 1985, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council has been a leader in transforming Rhode Island’s Blackstone Valley into an internationally-recognized visitor destination — a strong, vibrant region for visitors and residents alike. Working in conjunction with local communities, state and federal governments, and like-minded nonprofits and businesses, the Council has not only increased the number of visitors and enhanced their experiences, but strengthened the region’s economy, created a stronger, cleaner environment, and improved the quality of life for Blackstone Valley residents.

Today, thanks to the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and its many partners and collaborators, the Blackstone Valley is considered one of Rhode Island’s most significant visitor destinations, and a region where even our poorest communities have become more attractive places to live and work.

Home to some of Rhode Island’s most visited attractions and only historical national park, the Blackstone Valley, through its many historic sites and museums, is THE place to relive our great industrial heritage. It is a major arts destination and the location of some of our state’s finest, most unique, dining establishments.

Its many parks, farms and open spaces containing miles of waterways, hiking trails, bike paths, and abundance of wildlife and fall foliage make it one of the state’s outdoor recreational hotspots. At the heart of that renaissance is the Blackstone River which is now a haven for boaters, wildlife watchers, and fishermen.

Without any mansions or ocean beaches, the Council built on many of the assets existing in the region prior to the Council’s creation: a rich, cultural heritage and historic legacy, ethnic diversity, the Blackstone River, parks and recreational facilities, existing attractions such as the Pawtucket Red Sox, Twin River, Slater Mill, and a number of other historical attractions. Our success has been built upon the belief that healthy, vibrant and unique communities become stronger visitor destinations since proud and informed residents, after all, are more likely to encourage people to visit their home towns.

Sustainable Tourism

According to the UNWTO, sustainable tourism can be defined as: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”

The Valley’s turnaround can be attributed, in large part, to a reliance on sustainable tourism principles that:

Improve Quality of Life: The Council’s main goal is in improving the quality of life for its region’s residents. Healthy, vibrant, and unique communities become destinations for visitors.

Focus on Historical Preservation: The Valley has a story to tell. It is an invisible thread that connects the hundreds of historical sites to the residents and the urban fabric. Through identification, interpretation and preservation, these sites become some of the unique resources that bring value to the region. As the Council continually moves into the future, it is the Valley’s history that is the root for conscience and sustainable community development.

Advocates Environmental Justice and Conservation: It is important to remember where one comes from. The region’s people, structures and way of life thrive here because of the Blackstone River. This enormous watershed is a delicate yet resilient environment that must be conserved, honored and respected. The Council is one of the most stalwart environmental educators and patrons of the region.’

“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum, Senegalese Ecologist.

Encourages Cultural Appreciation & Interpretation: The many peoples who have called the Valley home mirror the chronicles of the rest of America. From the original Narragansett, Nipmuc and Wampanoag tribes, to the countless waves of immigrants from around the globe, all have left their indelible mark. The Council celebrates the rich past and current cultures of the Valley and spreads the message of unity, social responsibility and voice.

These overarching missions are met through direct approaches including:

  • Social justice
  • Youth, adult & elder education
  • Urban planning & design
  • Community development
  • Disaster resiliency
  • Event & festival programming
  • Support of local entrepreneurs
  • The arts & creative development
  • Promotional support

Accomplishments

Unlike other tourism councils, the BVTC, in order to attract visitors, had to create events and attractions in addition to promoting what already existed. They also had to engage in many economic, environmental and community development projects in order to build up the region’s economy and improve quality of life that helped attract people to live and work here. Among the Council’s greatest accomplishments:

Events & Attractions

The Council has created and in most cases operated a number of tours, festivals, and other events. These include:

  • Creation and operation of the Blackstone Valley Explorer Riverboat, the state’s only riverboat that offers public and private tours, plus educational programs for students (xx years)
  • Creation and operation of the Polar Express Train ride that brings more than 20,000 people to Woonsocket each Christmas season (xx years)
  • Creation and operation of the annual Rhode Island Dragon Boat and Taiwan Day Festival that brings several thousand to Festival Pier in Pawtucket each year (xx years)
  • Assistance with creation of and provision of ongoing assistance to the Pawtucket Arts Festival and Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame
  • Creation of many other festival, tours and attractions including the Rhode Island Cherry Blossom Festival, Steamboat Muster, Samuel Slater Canal Boat, other types of boat tours, Culinaria food tours, bike tours, and other train tours.

Economic, Environmental and Community Development

  • Led River cleanup efforts to the point that boating and fishing are allowed
  • Continue to lead efforts to build a continuous bike path throughout the Blackstone Valley and Rhode Island
  • Broad Street Regeneration Initiative to improve Broad Street through improving infrastructure and assisting businesses
  • Led the fight to create a National Park within Rhode Island’s Blackstone Valley
  • Creation and maintenance of Chocolate Overlook Park
  • Creation and administration of Keep America Beautiful environmental cleanup, beautification and other efforts throughout the Blackstone Valley
  • Planting of cherry trees along Roosevelt Avenue.
  • Assistance with developing Waterfront Properties at Festival Pier in Pawtucket and Central Falls Landing
  • Creation of the Amber Valley & Blackstone Valley Compact, and Belper & Pawtucket Compact.

Marketing and Promotion

  • Creation of several websites including Tourblackstone.com to promote Council events and attractions and events throughout the Blackstone Valley
  • Creation of many brochures and other materials, including Visitor Guides and tour maps
  • Management of two visitor centers
  • Distribution program to distribute Council and other organization flyers throughout the state• Conducting of annual celebrations
  • Development of the Sustainable Tourism Lab to promote the Council and Valley throughout the world and hold educational workshops for tourism, community, and other officials, professionals, and interested parties
  • Annual presentation of awards to recognize deserving organizations, businesses and individuals
  • Marketing and promotional assistance program to tourism attractions and organizations

View master list of accomplishments throughout the years

Awards & Recognition – Don’t Take Our Word for It

When it comes to the Council’s success with transforming the Blackstone Valley into a visitor destination and better place to live and work, don’t take our word for it. The Tourism Council has received numerous international, national, state and local awards and recognition for their efforts to build up the region. These include:

  • Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Award from the World Travel & Tourism Council
  • North American Travel Personality of the Year from the World Travel Awards, and
  • The SBEST Certification of Excellence from the United Nations World Tourism Organization

View full list of awards received | Awards presented

Going Forward

The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council will continue building a stronger Blackstone Valley through operating and enhancing our attractions and annual events, community and economic development efforts, environmental cleanup and beautification initiatives, and promotional efforts. Through quality planning and collaboration, the Council will continue enhancing the environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and well-being without compromising the Blackstone Valley for future generations.

Activities for 2019 and beyond include:

  • Continued production and distribution of marketing and promotional materials including annual visitor guides
  • Strengthening our system of websites and social media
  • Strengthening marketing and promotional programs to promote the overall Blackstone Valley as well as individual assets, nonprofits and businesses
  • Continue operation of our major annual events and activities including the Blackstone Valley Explorer Riverboat, Polar Express Train Ride, Fall Excursion Train Ride, Rhode Island Dragon Boat Races and Taiwan Day Festival, Awards Luncheon, and Blackstone Valley Golf Tournament as well as developing new ones
  • Strengthening environmental cleanup and beautification projects through Keep Blackstone Valley Beautiful
  • Continue supporting infrastructure and development improvements including National Park development, Broad Street Regeneration Initiative, completion of the Blackstone Valley and statewide bike paths, the Pawtucket Train Depot (Conant Thread District) and others
  • Enhance local biking programs via our Bike Stops web page and apps and Circle Blackstone Bike Map.
  • Strengthening education programs including RiverClassroom and the Sustainable Tourism Lab workshops
  • As part of a state task force, assisting with developing a planthat will help guide investment in bicycle infrastructure and operations to advance bicycle mobility and safety
    around the state.
  • Partner with the State Department of Transportation and Woonsocket Rotary Club to formally adopt the Hachi Memorial site space at the Woonsocket train depot that will consist of a complete reorganization of the memorial space and it’s surrounding landscaping.