2015-04-23 / Front Page

Hospitality Boon Sails in with Volvo Race

By James Merolla


"Surrounded by water and nothing to drink." (Photo by Sam Greenfield / Dongfeng Race Team) "Surrounded by water and nothing to drink." (Photo by Sam Greenfield / Dongfeng Race Team) The potential for millions of tourism and hospitality dollars pouring into Rhode Island and Aquidneck Island is about to become reality as thousands of visitors prepare to descend on Fort Adams from May 5-17 to catch a glimpse of the storied Volvo Ocean Race.

The Volvo Ocean Race began last October in Alicante, Spain. It has since visited five countries: South Africa, the U.A.E., China, New Zealand and, most recently, Brazil.

The stop in Newport will mark the next-to-last leg of the grueling nine-month, ten-port, seventeam race circumnavigating the globe with leg seven from here to Lisbon, Portugal with the final stop in Gothenburg, Sweden.

According to the local hospitality industry, virtually every hotel and inn room is booked on Aquidneck Island for the event.

“This major international event is going to inject millions of dollars into the Rhode Island economy. This will be an amazing opportunity to showcase our city and state to the entire world through the eyes of the hundreds of journalists attending,” said Evan Smith, President and CEO of Discover Newport. “With many national and international corporate sponsors attending, this will also be a great platform for Rhode Island to tell the world that our state is a great place to do business.”

But the economic boon extends far beyond hotel rooms for spectators.

“In order to achieve success we must all put our best foot forward. From front desk clerks and innkeepers to wait staff and taxi drivers, we want all our industry partners to greet our international guests and say. ‘Welcome to Rhode Island. We are excited that the Volvo Ocean Race is here!’ ” added Smith.

Laurie Stroll, President of Newport Hospitality, Inc. has booked rooms for some 1,100 people, as well as assisting with their entertainment, transportation, events and activities.

“I think it’s funny that everyone always asks about hotel rooms. The events and activities that these large groups are booking are even more exciting. It helps more businesses than just the hotels and inns,” said Stroll.

“For example, one event for 700 people at Marblehouse will not only benefit the Preservation Society, but also the tent, lighting, catering, linen, and rental companies, as well as florists, decorators, entertainers, and transportation businesses."

With many hotels being booked as far away as Providence, the immediate runoff has positively affected the economy of nearby Middletown as well.

“We’re ecstatic,” Middletown Council President Robert J. Sylvia said of the packed bookings. Every hotel room in town is booked. And this isn’t just for the days of the event, but post-event and pre-event as well."

Newport will also offer some unique experiences to keep the crowds entertained. “The youth Exploration Zone is something Newport will have that other stopovers don’t have. It’s a scientific and education area,” said Sean McNeill of Sail Newport. “The Zone was first done during the America’s Cup World Series, but it was inside the walls. This time it will be very prominent on the north lawn. There will be 22 exhibits from 20 partners in a 5,000-square-foot tent.”

The goal is to educate visitors about sailing, the oceans, science, the environment and the world.

McNeill is hoping that the enormous crowds will match the tens of thousands who descended upon Newport two years back for the America’s Cups trials. “We’d love to see equal numbers. The weather will always play a factor. The Volvo stopover is occurring a month earlier than the America’s Cup [event] did. Schools will be in session, and colleges will be going through finals,” said McNeill. But the view will be more accessible.

"People can see what it is like for crews to live aboard the boats. The best views are right along the shoreline of Ft. Adams,” said Mc- Neill. “So, bring the family, have a picnic, enjoy the scenery.”

The race is the longest sporting event in the world. It pits the toughest sailors against nature and some of the harshest elements in a glorious demonstration of human endurance. And that includes all the booking agents and servers on Aquidneck Island this May.

Race Village

On April 16, the first 12 of more than 100 containers that create the infrastructure for the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover arrived at Fort Adams. The first dozen came by ship from Auckland NZ; landed in Philadelphia and were trucked to Newport. Team SCA owns the containers which make a large hospitality pavilion and team compound for their sailing team.

The 12-day race village is Volvo’s only scheduled visit to North America during this the nine-month around-the-world sailing marathon which takes place over four oceans and five continents.

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