Colchester - People travel on their stomachs and, whenever possible, with their pets in tow.
So state tourism officials have concluded, which explains the Eastern Regional Tourism District's launch Tuesday of two new "trail" brochures highlighting regional attractions: "Foodie Finds," a listing of eateries and food-themed events, and "Pet-Friendly," a guide to lodgings and attractions that welcome four-legged visitors.
"Our research shows that people want experiential travel. They want to do things, explore," Randy Fiveash, Connecticut's tourism director, told a gathering at Harry's Place, the Route 85 burger stand listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"They travel on their stomachs," Fiveash quipped, noting that food stops - particularly those found off the beaten path - are especially popular with tourists.
The gathering at Harry's, billed as the kick-off of the fall tourism season, also marked re-issues of the regional district's "Antiques Trail" and "Sundae Drives" brochures, the latter of which, a compilation of ice cream purveyors, is in its fourth edition.
Tourism operators in the region seek to capitalize on the fall foliage's natural allure, said Ed Dombroskas, executive director of the district. Also known as Mystic Country, the 42-town district encompasses the eastern third of the state, from the coastline to the northeastern Quiet Corner.
The brochures highlight the historical aspects of many of the places and attractions they list, a tie-in with the state's "Still Revolutionary" tourism campaign.
Arthur Liverant, owner of Nathan Liverant and Son Antiques, a venerable shop on Main Street in Colchester, was on hand to extoll the drawing power of antique furniture and decorative art. He displayed an 18th century "high chest" built in the Stonington-Mystic area. He could tell the whereabouts of its origin, he said, by its distinctive "apron," a piece of trim in the shape of a lobster's tail.
"The economy has been challenging, but people's interest in history hasn't waned," Liverant said.
Liverant's shop and Harry's Place both date to 1920.
Tourists have always been a big part of Harry's business, said Milda Garet-Neville, who's owned the burger stand since 1978. A listing in the "Foodie Finds" brochure could enhance its standing, she said.
"Whenever we can advertise this part of the state, it's a good thing," Garet-Neville said. "Tourism means jobs. That's really what's important."