Explore Bristol, BMA combine for ‘bigger voice’

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With the goal of speaking with a louder voice, Explore Bristol and the Bristol Merchants Association are combining efforts to support local business and help boost the local economy.

“The two are better together,” said Alayne White, president of the BMA. “Which is kind of the mission of the BMA … we’re trying to be a big voice for small business.”

The two organizations will officially announce their collaboration during a “Better Together” party at DeWolf Tavern Thursday at 6 p.m. The groups will work together to speak for local businesses and help boost the economy by marketing the town to potential visitors and new residents. That was the goal of each organization separately, along with other groups in town, including the Economic Development Commission, MOSAICO and the East Bay Chamber of Commerce. All the voices speaking separately can create a lot of noise, something the collaboration should help clear up, according to Mike Byrnes, head of Explore Bristol.

“There’s always been a lot of confusion out there about who does what and who people should contact,” Mr. Byrnes said. “It seems like it would make sense to merge and all pull with one oar. We’re all seeking the same objective — to promote Bristol, promote local business, and try to enhance the economic vitality of local businesses.”

One key way the groups accomplish that is through the Explore Bristol website (www.explorebristolri.com), which highlights events and activities going on in town, includes a directory of businesses in all categories, a calendar of events and a list of resources for visitors and prospective new residents. The groups have also hired Lou Hammond & Associates, a New York public relations firm with a history of marketing towns to tourists.

“Bristol is such an easy place to visit. It’s a great 24-hour road trip place,” Ms. White said. “That’s why we’re joining, so we can really sustain business. We want to attract people not only to visit, but to move here. We want more people who are cool here.”

The BMA is working on its upcoming downtown merchants events, including the Halloween Walkabout and one of the biggest events of the year, the Holiday Preview Nov. 21-22. The groups are also promoting Bristol’s Bounty from Land and Sea, a farm to table event, on Aug. 24. Those type of events, in addition to larger events like, of course, the 4th of July, help bring visitors into the town.

“As people feel the need to step away from tech, the do want to visit places like Bristol. It’s a little slice of Americana,” Ms. White said. “There is such a place for Bristol on the tourism map. We need to communicate that to the point of absurdity.”

For more information on the organizations or to volunteer for upcoming events, contact Kathleen Seguin at kathleen.seguin@gmail.co or Alayne White at alayne@alaynewhite.com.

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