About the Council

Our Capabilities

The Forefront of Sustainable Tourism Development

The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council is a non-profit corporation registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) educational organization and was authorized under Section 42-63.1-5 of the Rhode Island General Laws as the State designated regional tourism development agency for the Northern Rhode Island tourism district. A 21 member Board of Director’s with a full-time professional staff manages the Council.

The Council’s development region follows the length and width of the Blackstone River Watershed, from the many tributaries in southern Massachusetts, to the River’s termination at the Headwaters of the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. The Council represents the cities of Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket, and the towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Smithfield, Glocester, and Burrillville.

Since 1985, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council has been at the forefront of sustainable destination development, community building and resiliency, education, and scholarly research. The Council was the first destination in the world to receive the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Ulysses Prize that merits distinction for innovative contributions to tourism policy, tourism sustainable planning, environment protection and new technologies. In 2006 the Council achieved the UNWTO .Sbest Certification in tourism governance.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2008, recognized the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council with their Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Award, one of the most prestigious sustainable tourism development awards in the world. The WTTC noted the Council’s integrated, community-centered, resilient approach to tourism development and community building.

The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council works to bridge the gaps between the economy, the environment, and the people that live in the Valley. This “multiple-bottom line” approach is the definition of sustainable community development. The Council’s concept of tourism is about creating a unique sense of place through social, economic and physical development for Valley residents, and in turn, creating a destination for visitors.

The Blackstone Valley does not have exotic beaches, renowned rainforests or dense metropolises. What the Valley does have is a story: the story of colonization, religious freedom, industrialization, immigration, the gilded age, pollution, poverty, urban decay, and of rebirth and sustainable redevelopment. This story is not stagnant; it is a living and evolving entity that is made up of the natural, built, and cultural environment of the Valley.

The work that the Tourism Council accomplishes could not be completed without the breadth and strength of the partnerships that have been developed. These include strong relationships with local social and community development organizations, municipalities, regional and state economic development organizations, educational institutions, as well as national and international entities. The Council has the ability to unite with any of these partners depending on the task and specialization that is needed.

Some of our partner organizations are listed below:

  • Pawtucket Citizens Development Corporation
  • Pawtucket Foundation
  • Progreso Latino
  • Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce
  • Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
  • Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation
  • Rhode Island Small Business Administration
  • Rhode Island Small Business Development Corporation
  • Rhode Island Center for Women and Enterprise
  • Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission
  • Rhode Island Historical Society
  • Rhode Island Council on the Arts
  • Rhode Island Housing
  • Rhode Island Committee on the Humanities
  • Grow Smart Rhode Island
  • Rhode Island Public Transit Authority
  • Preserve Rhode Island
  • Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor
  • US National Park Service
  • Preserve America
  • Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • South County Tourism Council
  • Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • East Bay Tourism Council
  • Block Island Tourism Council
  • Warwick Office of Arts, Culture and Tourism

The Council also partners with international entities in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Colombia, Canada and Taiwan.

These broad partnerships, in conjunction with the Council’s two decades of experience, means that there is an unparalleled capacity for regional sustainable development. Besides continuous action and community support services, the Council has developed a communication and educational platform that connects the foremost thinkers, writers, planners, and developers of sustainable development concepts. State-of-the-art conferences and consulting applications allows not only for discussion, but also of physical application in communities around the world.


“To create positive change with regard to community values by developing and promoting coordinated, responsible and sustainable tourism in Rhode Island’s Blackstone Valley communities. To plan and collaborate with intrastate, state, regional, national and international organizations to sustain and enhance the character of our destination, and to develop the public and private natural, historic, cultural, ethnic, industrial, recreational, educational, special events, artistic and commercial resources”

Through quality planning and collaboration, the Council enhances the environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and well being without compromising the Blackstone Valley for future generations.

The Council’s mission is:

  • Improving Quality of Life
  • Historical Preservation
  • Environmental Justice and Conservation
  • Cultural Appreciation and Interpretation

These overarching missions are met through direct approaches including:

  • Social Justice & Voice
  • Youth, Adult & Elder Education
  • Urban Planning & Design
  • Community Development
  • Disaster Resiliency
  • Event & Festival Programming
  • Support of Local Entrepreneurs
  • The Arts & Creative Development
  • Promotional Support

The Council is continually evolving and improving its sustainable development platform. Due to this foresight and adaptability, it has achieved a number of firsts in the tourism, education and development fields.

List of current programs and projects

  • American Girl Train Ride
  • Broad Street Regeneration Initiative
  • Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park
  • Blackstone Valley DeTours
  • Blackstone Culinaria
  • Blackstone Valley Tourism Network & Calendar of Events
  • Bike path and waterfront development
  • Blackstone Valley Annual Dinner
  • Blackstone Valley Heritage Golf Tournament
  • Blackstone Valley Explorer Riverboat
  • Blackstone Valley State Park and Blackstone Valley Visitor Centers
  • Blackstone Valley (U.S.) - Amber Valley (U.K.) International Compact
  • Chinese Dragon Boat Race & Taiwan Day Festival
  • Chocolate Mill Overlook Park
  • Fall Train Excursion
  • Keep Blackstone Valley Beautiful
  • Leisurely Bike Tours
  • Pawtucket Music & Arts Festivals
  • Polar Express Train Ride
  • Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame
  • RiverClassroom
  • Samuel Slater Canal Boat Bed and Breakfast
  • Sustainable Tourism Laboratory & Conferences

The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council has four major focus points for its efforts. These focus points overlap in their approaches and outcomes, so the Council takes a holistic approach to tourism development.

The following focus areas guide all of the Council’s missions and programs:

Focus Area #1: Improving 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 Area #2: 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.

Focus Area #3: 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 environ 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.

Focus Area #4: 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.

Conference Presentations

1998 - National Trust for Historic Preservation, Providence, RI

2000 - International Institute for Peace through Tourism - Glasgow, Scotland

2000 - Travel Industry Association of America - Norwich, CT

2001 - International Heritage Development Conference, Pittsburgh, PA

2002 - Tourism in Asia: Development, Marketing & Sustainability

2003 - International Heritage Development Conference, Charlestown, SC

2005 - International Heritage Development Conference, Nashville, TN

2006 - Business Enterprises for Sustainable Tourism Educational Network
Think Tank VI, Gerona, Spain

2007 - New England Visitor Center Managers Association, Manchester, NH

2007 - International Heritage Development Conference, Detroit, MI

2007 - Business Enterprises for Sustainable Tourism Educational Network
Think Tank VII, Flagstaff, AZ

2007 - Destination Marketing Association International - Annual Conference,
Pittsburgh, PA

2007 - Preserve America Communities – Workshop, St. Paul, MN

2008 - Cape Cod Tourism Symposium – Cape Cod Community College,
Hyannis, MA

2008 - Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston – Cultural Tourism
Workshop, Boston, MA

2008 – Business Enterprises for Sustainable Tourism Educational Network
Think Tank VIII, Turkey

White Papers, Journal Articles and Reports Published

1992 Blackstone River Valley Rhode Island: Regional comprehensive tourism plan for the communities of Pawtucket, Cumberland, Central Falls, Woonsocket, North Smithfield, Glocester, Burrillville, Lincoln and Smithfield. Pawtucket, RI: Author.

1999 Building bridges of peace, culture & prosperity through sustainable tourism. In R. W. Blanchard and G.D. Praetzel (Ed.), Third Global Conference - International Institute for Peace through Tourism. Regeneration of an industrial landscape through tourism – The Blackstone River Valley of New England (p. 74). New York: Niagara University.

2002 Tourism in Asia: Development, Marketing, and Sustainability. In K. Chon, V.CS Heung & K. KF Wong (Ed.), Fifth Biennial Conference. Creating sustainable tourism development - The Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor - America’s First Industrialized Valley: the role of leadership - Creativity, cooperation and commitment (pp. 25-33). Hong Kong: School of Hotel and Tourism Management.

2004 Federal leverage attracts private investment at US heritage sites: A case study. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 10(4), 349-359.

2005 Research Note: Federal leverage attracts private investment at US heritage sites. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, USA

2006 White Paper - Rhode Island Sustainable Tourism Planning Project Proposal

2007 Corporate Social Responsibility in Blackstone Valley: Working toward a Common Vision Tourism Review International

2008 The Practical Application of Sustainable Tourism Development Principles: A case study of creating innovative place-making tourism strategies. Tourism and Hospitality Research. Volume 8 - Number 1.

Media & Communications:

The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council is heavily reliant upon earned media coverage as its most powerful resource in gaining public attention to its ongoing strategic tourism development efforts.

In consultation with its Public Relations Counselor of Record, the Tourism Council has had a proven track record of gaining news coverage via traditional media (newspapers, magazines, TV and radio) and new media (news blogs and websites) News coverage has focused upon varied aspects of the Tourism Council’s economic and regional community development objectives and the historic, cultural, recreational and environmental aspects of the Blackstone River Valley Region.

The Tourism Council has over 300 earned media outlets in the New England region, Northeast US, national media outlets and global media news providers that are sent information and press releases on a daily basis. The Tourism Council also maintains 27 active websites, beginning with www.tourblackstone.com where the latest news on Tourism Council activities is posted.

The Tourism Council also works in conjunction with its “one to many partnerships” in gaining earned media attention and coverage. Some noted accomplishments in our successful earned media coverage include:

  • 2008 International Travel & Tourism Destination Award, with coverage including USA Today, Newsweek, Washington Post and world media outlets.
  • 2007 United Nations World Tourism Council certification, with international news media coverage.
  • Since 1993, ongoing coverage of sustainable tourism development activities, international tourism development and public visitor happenings with print, electronic and interactive media in Boston-Washington DC corridor, Canada, Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom, France.
  • Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Award from the World Travel & Tourism Council
  • North American Travel Personality of the Year from the World Travel Awards
  • SBEST Certification of Excellence from the United nations World Tourism Organization
  • Heritage Award from the Pawtucket Foundation
  • Tom Roberts Prize for Creative Achievement from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities
  • Mary Brennan Tourism Award at the “Stars of the Industry” annual meeting and awards ceremony
  • Ulysses Award from the United Nations World Tourism Organization for destination management


View our current staff listing here

Back to Principles & Policies Menu