Brilliant foliage, Fryeburg Fair and plenty of international visitors in Mt Washington Valley
News from Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce – October 11, 2016
Contact: Marti Mayne, 207-846-6331 or PR@mtwashingtonvalley.org
FOLIAGE, FAIRS, BREWS & BRITS CONTRUBUTED TO STRONG COLUMBUS DAY IN MT WASHINGTON VALLEY
Visitors from around the world flocked to see brilliant foliage over Columbus Day weekend & autumn weeks
North Conway, NH – Mt Washington Valley businesses celebrated the peak of fall foliage with strong sales, and record-setting traffic for some. Despite the late-summer fear for lackluster fall colors due to the dry summer, Mother Nature once again came through, delighting visitors coming from the West Coast along with Europe, Asia, India to see Mt Washington Valley’s famous colors. Add to that the Fryeburg Fair, Attitash Oktoberfest, Ghoullog, Pumpkin People Tour, and the new Purity Spring Brew Ha Ha events, and there was no shortage of reasons to visit Mt Washington Valley over Columbus Day weekend. In an informal survey distributed to Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce members, business owners and staff conveyed increases in sales both for Columbus Day weekend and the six weeks following Labor Day; some reporting records for the weekend.
“No matter what the weather or drought conditions, Mt Washington Valley offers beautiful color for leaf peepers who flock to our area from throughout the world and this year was no exception,” said Janice Crawford, Executive Director of the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. “While we saw more early color than in past years, our peak foliage coincided with Columbus Day weekend, especially in the Northern parts of the Valley. The good news is, we’ve still got weeks of beautiful color to enjoy as the leaves peak in the southern part of the Valley,” finished Crawford.
A sampling of comments indicated that Mt Washington Valley was a popular destination once again this year for leaf peepers who came from all parts of the world. Lodging properties who weighed in noted an increase in advance reservations which might be explained by the rise in international visitors who tend to plan ahead.
Christopher Bellis, owner of the Cranmore Inn, shared that revenues were up by nearly 5-percent over last year for the Columbus Day week. “We had more European international travelers this year and people coming from outside of the New England to see the foliage,” said Bellis who also noted that revenues for September and October were also up over last year. When asked, Bellis predicted that November 2016 revenues will also exceed last year’s numbers to keep the positive momentum going.
Steve Lambert, innkeeper, told the chamber that the Bernerhof Inn B&B has been sold out for the past 22 nights, including dinners, with a 17-percent increase over last year in sales for lodging and dining. “Brexit brought no suppression of the Brits or Scots, they’re reserved in droves until November. We also see the upside to the early onset of colors and expect to see their satisfaction in viewing of the next ten or so days,” noted Lambert.
Gary Plourde, General Manager of the Christmas Farm Inn, concurred with his fellow lodging colleagues on the increase in international visitors coming to see fall foliage. The Christmas Farm Inn was sold out for Columbus Day weekend, and the inn experienced a record September with October on course to follow as the best October ever, according to Plourde. “Most of the bookings were made three to six months in advance,” said Plourde, once again testimony to the trend toward visitors from outside New England in the fall. “The beautiful weather and buoyant economy is ensuring last minute pick up of available rooms. People were very happy with the great weather, vibrant fall colors and beautiful scenery,” he finished.
The Mt Washington B&B in Shelburne sold out all three nights of Columbus Day weekend, according to Mary Ann Meyer, representing an increase over last year. Mayer also shared she predicts October to end up over last year, and credited the weather, brilliant foliage and a three-day package to the positive increases.
Nearby at the Royalty Inn in Gorham, Conrad Klefos, General Manager, reported a 4-percent increase in bed nights and nearly an 8-percent increase in revenues at the property. Looking ahead, Klefos added, “Next weekend looks strong due to River Fire and the Zombie poker run (ATVs). It looks like a strong fall season.”
Beth Hopper, Cathedral Ledge Resort, Front Desk Manager, also was enthusiastic sharing that Columbus Day weekend was well ahead of last year and crediting the great weather and beautiful foliage for the increases. When asked about the rest of the fall season, she was also optimistic, saying “Veterans Day weekend seems to be booking at a fast pace, obviously due to the "Bring your girlfriend to shop" event (at Settlers Green Outlets). We have a few groups returning and a bunch of new ones as well,” she added.
Richard LeFave, co-owner of the Old Red Inn and Cottages also reported that bookings both over Columbus Day and the fall season to date are up over last year. “We are seeing more guests from the south this year. Our reservations are up for the fall this year and the phones are still ringing,” said LeFave.
Representatives from Mt Washington Valley’s attractions were equally positive in their reports for both Columbus Day weekend and the fall season so far. Cathy Bedor, co-owner of The Mt Washington Cog Railway was all smiles in responding to the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce survey. “I am thrilled to say the weekend has been phenomenal,” said Bedor. “We had 18-percent more riders than last year with a majority of the train tickets being purchased in advance. Not only did we have a significant number of visitors domestically from inside and outside New England, but we saw an increase in international travelers from China, Korea, India and Pakistan too,” she noted. Bedor also shared that Columbus Day 2016 was a record weekend for the Cog and Sunday of Columbus Day weekend set a one-day record too.
Good weather has perhaps the largest impact on the Mt Washington Auto Road. General Manager Howie Wemyss explained that traffic and sales for fall season to date is up because of better weather resulting in hardly any freezing events on the mountain to curtail operations. The Auto Road also posted an increase in sales over last year for Columbus Day. Wemyss shared that he observed more Canadians, many more Europeans and a continued increase in Indian sub-continent families and guests, when asked about the visitors to the Auto Road. “Foliage was at peak through the Columbus Day weekend which was a huge plus for our guests who we estimate have used approximately 4 quadrillion pixels to record it all!” finished Wemyss.
Admittedly rain on Sunday of Columbus Day weekend had an impact on some attractions. At Cranmore Mountain Resort, the weekend started off very strong, according to Becca Deschenes, Director of Marketing. “We were about 11-percent up in admissions over last year on Saturday,” said Deschenes. “We lost some momentum from the weekend with Sunday’s rain, but made up some ground on Monday, closing the day at 20% ahead in day pass admissions over the prior year Monday,” she finished.
Greg Fisher, Director of Marketing for Peak Resorts Northeast, told the chamber “This year’s Columbus Day Weekend at Attitash Mountain Resort was fantastic as the foliage shined and Saturday’s Oktoberfest was one of the largest crowds ever. Saturday’s scenic chairlift rides were a popular attraction and up considerably from the previous year as well. Sunday’s weather while dreary wasn’t a complete washout as we had another day of fun at Oktoberfest. Our ZipTour attraction also closed out our summer/fall operating season on a high note as it was pretty much fully reserved for all three days of the holiday weekend. Monday’s visits were again very good and were on par to the previous year.”
At the Conway Scenic Railroad, the Notch Train has been sold out since last Wednesday, and the Valley Trains sold out all three days of the holiday weekend, according to Susan Logan, Director of Marketing. The momentum continues for this week as advance reservations on the Conway Scenic Railroad remain strong, with the Notch Train First Class package sold out every day but Friday according to Logan.
Kathleen Driscoll, Executive Director of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, told the chamber that after just 11 days of the Pumpkin People Tour, 12,000 maps have been given out, with over 400 ballots returned to the office. Over Columbus Day weekend alone the office gave out more than 600 maps to visitors from throughout New England, Mid-Atlantic States, Canada and England. “Here's the interesting point... each and every person coming in already knew about the Pumpkin People. Usually you get a few guests that hadn't heard of the event or heard about it but would like more information. It seemed this year that these visitors knew about it, couldn't wait to get out and see them all,” finished Driscoll who credited a recent article in the Boston Globe in part for the visibility for the Return of the Pumpkin People tour.
Leaf peepers also spent time shopping over the Columbus Day weekend. Greg Vander Veer, owner of The Christmas Loft, said “We were up significantly from last year for the Columbus Day week,”. He also confirmed that the store is up over last year for the fall season to date, crediting an increase in inventory and marketing for the success. He too shared that there were many Canadian and international visitors to the store over the holiday weekend.
Nancy White Cassidy, owner of The Cassidy Gallery At Jackson Village told the chamber that sales nearly doubled over last year, with a concurrent large increase in new customers to the gallery. Sales are also up over last year for the fall season to date too, says Cassidy. She credited her advertising and new signage along with special events in-store and in Jackson Village for the increase in traffic.
Michelle Merrill, Manager of Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton, located in Settlers Green, shared that sales and foot traffic were actually down for the holiday weekend. While traffic to the store has been on par with last year for October, the sales have not overlapped.
And visitors also flocked to restaurants to fuel up for a day of leaf peeping. Bud Selmi, owner of Margarita Grill, shared that the restaurant was up over last year for both Columbus Day weekend and the fall weeks to date. Last Sunday’s rain was a bonus for the restaurant, driving people in to enjoy a meal, shared Salmi, who also noted more Canadian and overseas visitors visited the restaurant.
Christopher Bellis, owner of the Chef’s Bistro also reported that sales were on par with last year for both Columbus Day weekend and the fall weeks to date.
There’s still plenty of leaf peeping left to be had in Mt Washington Valley. Color is expected to peak in North Conway and the southern parts of the Valley this week and in coming weeks. To plan your 2016 fall getaway to Mt Washington Valley, visit www.MtWashingtonValley.org or call 800-367-3364 (800-DO-SEE-NH) to talk to a vacation planning concierge. To learn more about getaways to the rest of New Hampshire, go to www.VisitNH.gov.
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For video of fall foliage with Jackson Falls in the background, click here. To use or share, please credit Dan Houde/WiseguyCreative.com.
For photos of fall foliage in Mt Washington Valley, visit the Mt Washington Valley’s Flickr Gallery by clicking here.