Boosting tourism: City eyes ‘fam’ tour to promote city

Members of a new city and Chamber of Commerce panel are working to create a Milford tour for marketing groups and individuals with the hope of boosting travel and visits to this small city with a big heart.

Cities host these tours, called familiarization tours or “fam” tours, for marketing agencies, travel writers, travel agents, and other groups that might help promote travel, offering stops at high-interest locations. In Milford a tour might include the beach, restaurants, hotels — places of interest and places to dine and stay.

The Tourism Council met in Milford for the second time recently, and worked to consolidate ideas for tours of the city.

The group, a subset of the Milford Chamber of Commerce, plans to create a mock tour, and is inviting businesses to create package deals for incoming potential tourists. The council is collaborating with New Haven, which has more experience promoting tourism. Milford started looking at doing its own promoting to combat diminishing state tourism dollars.

Chamber of Commerce Director Gary Mullin said he did not create the group with any expectations in mind. “We’re still exploring whether local people should do something,” he said. “It’s possible that the tour will fall on its face,” he said.

Still, the group is optimistic and hopeful that highlighting Milford as a unique and welcoming city will yield results for the community. For the next meeting, in November, Milford Director of Economic and Community Development Julie Nash will prepare a presentation detailing various package deals. Nash will prepare the information with the help of Sarah Washburn, who is responsible for tourism in New Haven and works with Visit New Haven.

Nash and the council hope to learn from Washburn how New Haven runs its tours, and possibly collaborate with the New Haven group, which has many contacts in the tourism industry. Nash will then report back on tour details — tour stops, length of stops — that may be effective in promoting Milford.

“After we get the first tour under our belts, the process will become much more clear,” Nash said. Nash added that by administering these tours, those in the travel industry can then promote Milford in outlets the city may not have reached otherwise.

A faux tour will take place, likely on Dec. 8, consisting of the members of the council, as well as possible bloggers who are friends or family of the members to provide a fresh set of eyes on the project.

Members said an official tour may take place once or twice a year, and that they are looking to highlight the city in memorable and unique ways.

Paige Miglio, executive director of the Milford Arts Council, suggested that the package and tour be geared toward a particular season. She believes the town has a plethora of features to showcase, and that many popular Milford spots offer walkability, which is attractive to tourists, whether they are from a nearby state or are traveling internationally.

The consensus is that the official tour will be planned for early May, or for when boats are heading back into Long Island Sound.

The next Tourism Council meeting is set for Nov. 29.