Commerce secretary takes responsibility for tourism blunder

Stefan Pryor

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The head of Rhode Island’s Commerce Corporation testified before House lawmakers Tuesday on the state’s upcoming budget.

Stefan Pryor’s testimony was not supposed to be about last week’s messy start to the state’s new tourism campaign but he started with a statement on just that, saying that good work has been eclipsed by mistakes that were made.

The debacle began last Monday when the agency unveiled a new logo and slogan, created in part by two out-of-state marketing firms for roughly $550,000, as the symbol of a new $4.5 million tourism campaign.

The branding “Cooler & Warmer” was quickly mocked on social media, and the criticism grew exponentially when it was discovered a related promotional video included footage of Iceland and a redesigned tourism website contained outdated, inaccurate information. The errors made national headlines.cooler-and-warmer

As a result, Gov. Gina Raimondo accepted the resignation of Rhode Island Chief Marketing Officer Betsy Wall, who was hired by the state in December.

“When anything happens within my team, I take responsibility,” Pryor said Tuesday. “I take responsibility across the board when anything happens that’s a mistake.”

Raimondo also said taxpayers would get back more than $100,000 from two of the companies involved in the tourism campaign’s launch, and said she plans to keep the new logo while dropping the slogan that went with it.

On Monday, Pryor sat down with Eyewitness News for his first TV interview after the tourism debacle. However, he couldn’t say exactly when the now-defunct slogan was chosen.

“You know what the slogan is going to be for the state?” he asked. “It’s going to be all of the various words that the people of Rhode Island attach to it. There will be as many slogans as Rhode Islanders produce and we’re excited about that.”

Now, Pryor and his team are looking to lock in another $5 million in the state’s upcoming budget to keep their tourism campaign going.

“When we trip and fall, we have to fix the problems that caused that,” Pryor added. “And we’ve also got to get back up and serve Rhode Islanders and serve them in a way that will make them proud. And that’s what we are doing.”

Pryor is expected to be back in front of the House Finance Committee next week. He was asked to bring a detailed breakdown of how much money has been spent on the tourism campaign so far and how much they’re seeking for next year.

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.

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