“It encouraged people to come downtown and try new businesses,” Singh said. “They should start this more often.”
Last May, the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce launched the Passport to Norwich Programalongside the City of Norwich, Norwich Historical Society, US Foods, Miranda Creative and the Eastern Regional Tourism District.
The program ends on February 14 and Angela Adams, executive director of the Chamber, declared it a success, noting positive feedback from winners who were encouraged to try a variety of restaurants around the city.
“They hadn’t been to some restaurants, and some of them, it’s just revisiting ones they may not have visited in a while,” Adams said.
People received special little booklets – their “passports” – stamped at participating restaurants for every purchase of $10 or more. If someone filled out a passport with 20 stamps, no more than three from the same establishment, the passport could be submitted for draws, for which submissions close on January 31.
Winners receive a $250 gift card, funded by US Foods, to spend at one of more than 50 participating Passport to Norwich restaurants, and people can fill out multiple passports.
So far, Adams said there will be a total of 40 designs, and she said around 100 completed passports have been submitted, with some people completing multiple booklets.
Singh said the program has helped because the climate is still tough for restaurants.
“Especially right after COVID, business was slowing down and (the program) is a boost,” Singh said.
Outside the city centre, Harvey Balidemaj, chairman of Bella Fiore Restaurante on West Thames St., also said he saw more diners through the Passport to Norwich scheme, and staff liked the scheme too.
“I think there was more energy to draw people in than anything else,” Balidemaj said.
Balidemaj said he would participate in the program again because it inspires people to “walk around to experience more service, more food, more fun.”
Part of the program was also to draw people to the Walk Norwich trails, showcasing local history through walking trails around historic homes, sites and monuments. Regan Miner, executive director of the Norwich Historical Society, said the program has also helped the Walk Norwich program, as Miner has noticed an increase in web traffic. Miner also said she regularly replenishes brochures outside the historical society’s visitor center.
“It was a great way to get out and explore the history of our own backyard, while taking advantage of the dining and take-out opportunities that our local restaurants provide,” Miner said.
Singh said the passport concept is good, although he said letting people have more stamps from the same restaurant is something to consider.
“Sometimes people don’t eat at other restaurants often, in terms of taste or culture,” Singh said. “Some Indians don’t eat beef, others are stuck with limited restaurants, so they probably won’t finish all the stamps.”
As for Adams, she said she wants to better integrate walking trails into the program, but said she would be interested in running the program again.
“It’s all about experience, and that’s what I think we were able to accomplish,” Adams said.