The latest Rhode Island tourism campaign continues to have a bumpy start to 2024.

In an effort to highlight the beauty and culture of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Tourism launched a new marketing campaign, accompanied by a new slogan and new initiatives to highlight the beauty and culture of the state.

The only problem is that the “local initiative" seems to be run by an out-of-towner.

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Crawfish Raises Eyebrows

In a post on its Instagram, Rhode Island tourism promoted a certain kind of seafood that is not typically associated with Rhode Island and the community was quick to call it out.

What’s Going On in Rhode Island shared the “blunder by the RI tourism campaign,” where the campaign promotes crawfish as local Rhode Island seafood.

Yes, Rhode Island is home to restaurants that serve seafood boils and offer crawfish, but it is rarely seen among other local offerings like clam cakes and chowder.

“When you hire out-of-state agencies to promote Rhode Island, this is what happens,” said the popular outlet.

The post has locals wondering if Rhode Islanders even run the new tourism initiative.

“This is what happens when you don’t hire folks that live here and know our resources,” said one online user.

“So many talented in-state agencies…use them!!!” said another.

The Crawfish Post, Explained

Fun 107 contacted RI Tourism to inquire about the photo and see if the campaign is being run by a third party outside of Rhode Island.

Matthew Touchette, the Rhode Island Director of Public Affairs, provided helpful information.

"That picture was taken from the Charlestown Seafood Festival, a popular seafood festival in South County" he said. "Rhode Island is so much more than stuffies and lobsters, clam cakes and chowder...we have a very diverse seafood chain, and crawfish is one of them."

Many Rhode Islanders were steamed about the crawfish post, but truthfully, crawfish can be found in 43 locations across the state, according to the DEM.

"Although there a few species of crawfish/crayfish in Rhode Island, they’re freshwater crustaceans that are used primarily for bait for freshwater fish," clarified Touchette. "Any crawfish/crayfish served is thanks to our diverse culinary scene, which in addition to serving and selling locally sourced foods, also included foods and flavors from around the world."

In regards to using a third-party agency, Touchette was transparent in saying the state works very closely with an agency based in Florida, but any posts created by the agency must be approved by the Rhode Island team.

In the case of the crawfish post, it was solely created by the RI Tourism team.

Why Not Use a Local Marketing Agency?

"I understand that there are local companies that offer marketing and advertising and public relations services, but we don't just hire a company," he explained. "We are a government agency, we have to do an RFP."

An RFP, or a request for proposal, is a project announcement posted publicly by an organization indicating that bids for contractors to complete the project are sought.

"When that goes out, anyone can apply," he said. "In this case, the agency (in Florida) scored the highest and they got the contract."

Food for thought: While we may typically be paired with clam cakes and chowder, the new RI Tourism initiative is here to show the diversity of the state's cuisine and culture.

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