What do Egypt, Turks and Caicos, New York City and the state of Rhode Island have in common? They are all official world-class destinations.
The biggest little state in the union earned that honor recently when it received the International Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, the most prestigious award in the tourism and hospitality industry. Rhode Island is the first and only state in America to receive the award, which in its 60-year history has gone to countries, resorts, cities, cruise lines, chefs – but never an American state.
“Rhode Island,” said Joseph Cinque, a native of Revere and president of the academy, “is the smallest state –- and the best.”
Cinque said the award is based on traveler surveys taken from around the world, and that Rhode Island consistently scores well. The state, the smallest in the country, has a variety of tourist draws, including its most famous one, Newport, but also boasts South County beaches, the award-winning Water Fire in downtown Providence, the culinary haven that is Federal Hill in the capital city, and Slater Mills in Pawtucket, the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.
“Only 10 destinations in the academy’s history have received this award,” said Mark Brodeur, Rhode Island’s director of tourism, at a posh reception held under the rotunda of the Rhode Island State House Jan. 15 attended by 200 state hospitality and tourism professionals, as well as local and state politicians. “We’re honored to be the first state to get one.”
In 2007, Brodeur said, the tourism industry in Rhode Island generated $4.24 billion, a jump of 10 percent over 2006. He said the International Star Diamond Award honor could mean an additional billion dollars in tourism money.
In accepting the award, Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri said, “This is the Oscar of the hospitality industry.”