BOSTON (CBS) –International visitors to Boston were up 10 percent in 2014 to a record 1.4 million aided by new air service into Logan Airport. But under new Governor Charlie Baker, state tourism funds have been cut.
Baker was on hand on Friday for a media event at the Logan Airport Hyatt Hotel announcing the visitor results for last year sponsored by the Greater Boston Convention Bureau and Massport.
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Governor Baker praised the tourism efforts of the private sector. Mayor Marty Walsh did not attend, but was quoted in the press release.
The 2014 numbers occurred in the final year of the Patrick administration. Facing a major shortfall in this year’s budget, the new governor cut funds for the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism by over four million dollars.
Also speaking at the event was Anders Lindstrom, U.S. Communications Director for Norwegian Air Shuttle. Norwegian will begin flights to the Caribbean this December and next May will begin weekly service to Copenhagen, London and Oslo.
Last year, Massachusetts was the seventh most popular state to visit trailing New York, Florida, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Texas. An interesting note is that U.S. government statistics do not track visitor spending from Canada and Mexico in their numbers.
Visitors spent over $1 billion dollars while visiting Massachusetts, an average of $763 per person in 2014.
For thee first time, China ranked number one in tourism visitors to the Bay State, with about 173,000 last year, topping Great Britain for the first time.
Logan Airport will add seven new international non-stop destinations this year.
In the first six months of the year, total international passengers using Logan Airport climbed 11.2 percent to 1,323, 245, an increase of over 254,000 or 9,800 a week compared to the same period a year ago.
In the past five years, total international travel passenger numbers have increased over 810,000 while overall traffic rose 2,839,736.
In his remarks, Governor Baker, who served in previous Republican administrations, pointed out great changes that have taken place in the city, looking across Boston Harbor from the Hyatt Hotel.
These changes started with Fidelity leasing the World Trade Center and the cleanup of Boston Harbor. Then came the Moakley Court House, the MBTA Silver Line, the new South Boston Convention center and building in the Seaport District.
All of this growth is not without its problems.
At 4 p.m. Friday, traffic trough the Ted Williams Tunnel was backed up in both directions, bumper to bumper, and the waiting time to clear customers is still an hour during peak times at Logan.
The strong dollar will send Americans abroad but makes a visit to Massachusetts more expensive for visitors next year.
In a sign of the times, the old American Airlines hangar built in the sixties was torn down this month to make way for the new international Terminal E.
Pat Moscaritolo, who heads the CVB, summed up the tourism activity after the media event concluded by stating “next year the figures will be off the charts.”
Waiting for my ride in the Hyatt Lobby, the TV sets behind the registration area had breaking news that the stock market was off 500 points, something else that could affect travel. At the same time, the price of oil fell below $40 a barrel which is very good news for the airlines serving Boston and Logan Airport.
Bob Weiss reports on business travel on Mondays at 5:55 a.m. on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.