Strong February Vacation Week Posted in Mt Washington Valley, NH
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 4, 2009
CONTACT: Marti Mayne, 207-846-6331, firstname.lastname@example.org
FEBRUARY VACATION WEEKS REPORTEDLY STRONG IN MT WASHINGTON VALLEY DESPITE ECONOMIC WOES
Mt Washington Valley businesses speculate people are staying closer to home
North Conway, NH - Despite reports of a tanking stock market and looming recession, skiers and travelers still came to Mt Washington Valley to celebrate Valentine's Day, Presidents Week and NH Vacation Week according to an informal survey conducted by the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. While those reporting mentioned some travelers were spending less, and continue to make reservations at the last minute, the sentiment was cautiously optimistic with mild gains posted by many businesses compared to last year at the same time.
Freddie at Cranmore Mountain Lodge reported significant increases in guests from Massachusetts and New Hampshire during the two February vacation weeks. The two week period ended 4 percent up over last year at the same time for the Lodge. Mary Ann Mayer of the Mt Washington B&B in Shelburne reported a much stronger February vacation period in 2009 than 2008. She stated that February 2009 was the strongest February in ten years for her business. Nearby Royalty Inn also noted a 5 percent increase in February vacation weeks 2009 over 2008. Both Royalty Inn and Mt Washington B&B benefitted from groups skiing in the area. Bill Petrone from the Buttonwood Inn on Mt Surprise posted an 11 percent increase in occupancy for 2009 over 2008 vacation weeks, attributed to a focus on marketing and added value at the inn. He shared a perception that guests are spending slightly less, but if they see value in their purchases, they'll continue to make them.
Chris Diego at the Mountain View Grand reported an 8 percent increase in bookings over last year. He agreed with the perception that travelers are cutting back on discretionary spending. Yet, Pat Corso, President and CEO of Mount Washington Resort, said that guests are spending more as evidenced by increased numbers in food and beverage and retail at The Mount Washington Hotel. Just two and a half hours from Boston, Mount Washington Resort has also noticed a deepening in drive-market traffic, with guests coming from slightly further south than its traditional primary market. "What we're seeing is that folks are hopping in their cars and driving here---- perhaps taking shorter trips as opposed to taking one or two longer trips, such as out West or to Europe," said Corso. Arthur De La Torre at the Eastman Inn credits a focus on internet marketing to the 4 percent increase in 2009 over 2008 for the vacation weeks and notes that everyone is looking for a bargain, thus his packages are boosting bookings. Noting that people are staying closer to home, Arthur, like others who responded to the survey, hope to attract New Englanders this spring and summer.
Jan at the Golden Gables Inn shared that the 15 percent increase seen there for the two February vacation weeks was most likely due to the affordability of his rates for people looking for less expensive lodging. Don Bilger, owner of the Inn at Jackson and Whitney's Inn reported a 15 percent and 20 percent increase respectively for his inns over last year's February vacation weeks. He speculated that travelers came during the peak vacation weeks, relinquishing the weeks on either side of the vacation weeks. Dan Houde reported that Purity Spring Resort was fully booked during the Massachusetts Vacation Week, and on weekends during the NH vacation week. He noted while most amenities are included in a stay there, extras like sleigh rides were up over last year, surprisingly.
The ski resorts responded to the survey with resounding enthusiasm. Every ski resort and XC center reported an increase in skier visits for the two February vacation weeks over last year. Thomas Prindle at Wildcat Mountain credited the pre-booked international groups and good snow and weather conditions with a 9 percent increase over last year for the two weeks. The Wildcat ski school welcomed more than 400 skiers from the UK and Ireland on February 17 alone. These international groups also contributed to increases seen at area lodging as well as ski school and food operations at Wildcat. Prindle also noted that online sales for tickets are up considerably this year. Frank Guerriero, Director of Marketing at Attitash weighed in noting that February vacation weeks 2009 were up over 2008 due mostly to a new brand identity and marketing. Melissa Rock agreed that Shawnee Peak experienced a strong vacation week too. Lori Pecor at Black Mountain attributed their affordable ticket pricing to Black Mountain's best vacation period on record, noting a 15 percent increase over last year for February vacation weeks. According to Chris Ellms, Mount Washington Resort's Director of Ski Operations, Bretton Woods is on pace for this season to be the best or second best ski season ever. "President's Day vacation week was up 14% in skier visits over the same period last year, and skier visits during NH vacation week were up 11% over the same period in 2007/08. Abundant natural snowfall keeps the skiers coming to Bretton Woods. In the month of February alone, Bretton Woods received over five feet of snow," said Ellms.
Both Thom Perkins of Jackson Ski Touring and Dan Houde of King Pine Cross Country Center reported in with increases in trail passes and skier days for both vacation weeks. Rentals were also reportedly up too. Peter Gagne at Northern Extremes shared that the great weather and snow conditions contributed to a 10 percent increase over last year for the two February vacation weeks. He noted an increase in families visiting the Valley.
Linda Rafferty of Rafferty's Restaurant & Pub said the restaurant saw an increase in business in 2009 over 2008 for the Massachusetts vacation week. She shared that she has not noted a change in travelers spending patterns there.
Retailers were mixed in their reports. Some retailers expressed concern over fewer customers and lower spending. Louise Perry of Vintage Frameworks in North Conway Village speculated that people are spending less on framing due to the economy, and this has contributed to back-to-back monthly double digit decreases over last year for the shop. Tim Psaledakis of Jewelry by Timothy W. Psaledakis & Friends feels his new smaller location has contributed to fewer sales, yet higher foot traffic. He speculates that while repairs will carry his business, spending on "high ticket" items may be soft for awhile. Lynda Schuepp at The Penguin Gallery of NH reported that sales were up over last year for the February Vacation Weeks yet profits are down because of increased costs from manufacturers and higher shipping costs which are difficult to pass on in this economy. Looking ahead, The Penguin hopes to continue a modest growth pattern by carrying additional less expensive items and focusing on excellent customer service.
While they're new players in North Conway, Brian Charles, proprietor of the North Conway Music Shop said that sales were ahead of projections for the February vacation weeks, and speculated that "folks are buying guitars instead of going on vacation." Aaron Kesmetis, of Aaron Hats said, "In comparing the last two weeks of February 2009 with 2008, our in store sales were up 25% and online sales were up even more. The popularity of hats continues to grow stronger to the point that some of our manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up with the demand". Ken Close at Little Shop in the Woods in North Conway Village said that sales were up 4 percent over last year, yet their new location accounts for more traffic. Ken noted, "Most people I talk to in the shop are cutting back on non-essential spending. It is still important for them to have a vacation and come to the Valley for recreation and they will continue to come, but while they're here they are shopping less. I think that this pattern will continue for most of 2009." Ken also reminded us that this week is Canadian (PQ, NB, ON) school vacation week, which accounts for an increase in Canadian travelers in the Valley. Finally, we heard from the Emporium Consignment and Home Staging Center that the vacation weeks were much busier than last year, due in part to an increase in second home owners looking to furnish new homes with quality items and others looking to downsize and sell household items.
Innkeepers looking at advance reservations for the spring and summer are stymied. With a strong trend toward last-minute bookings, its difficult for lodging businesses to predict what will come. The larger resorts and conference centers are bracing for a continued decrease in corporate travel and conferences, given the assault on business travel by the government and media. According to Don Bilger of Inn at Jackson and Whitney's Inn, "Guests are definitely more rate sensitive and are asking for deals. Looking ahead, I think that people are spending their vacation dollars during the peak seasons and foregoing the shoulder season trips." The ski resorts are energized for a strong spring skiing season, due to heavy snowfall in February and March extending the great conditions.
For more information on visiting Mt Washington Valley, visit http://www.mtwashingtonvalley.org/ or call 800-DO-SEE-NH (800-367-3364).