Columbus Day 2009 -- Business Wrap-Up
Photo by Dan Houde of Purity Spring Resort
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 13, 2009
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STUNNING REDS, ORANGES AND YELLOWS BRING IN THE GREEN FOR MT WASHINGTON VALLEY BUSINESSES THIS COLUMBUS DAY WEEKEND
Prime ‘leaf peepin' lead to traffic and spending increases in Mt Washington Valley
North Conway, NH (10-13-09): A survey of the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce (MWVCC) membership comparing Columbus Day Weekend 2009 with 2008, revealed optimistic results for area businesses. The majority of businesses responding to the survey were extremely positive, with more than 80 percent claiming that business either stayed the same or increased over last year. "Brilliant foliage combined with great weather, two fairs, festivals and many other events, sales and promotions culminated in a very strong weekend for Mt Washington Valley," stated the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce's Executive Director, Janice Crawford.
According to the MWVCC survey distributed on Sunday, October 11, 83 percent of respondents said that business either increased or stayed the same for Columbus Day 2009 compared to 2008. The largest majority of respondents (48 percent) said that business increased this year over last. Linda Schuepp, owner of The Penguin Gallery of NH commented, "The fall of 2009 has been our best fall to date. Even with the recession, it appears we are drawing a new set of customers that might have travelled farther away then in the past and with the money they saved, they felt justified to spend a little more buying gifts."
Traffic to Mt Washington Valley for Columbus Day Weekend 2009 was reportedly up over last year, as 87 percent of respondents stated that paying guests stayed the same or increased compared to last year. The majority of respondents (47 percent) claimed that paying guests increased from last year. Kathy Bennett, Marketing Director at Cranmore Mountain Resort, said "The Ghoullog saw record breaking attendance numbers for this weekend that not only exceeded our budget but also saw about a 15 percent increase over the same weekend in 2008."
Shops and attractions weren't the only businesses to report increases in sales this Columbus Day weekend as lodging members who responded to the survey remained confident too. "The combination of peak foliage, a good weather forecast and two fairs in our area all contributed to our best Columbus Day ten-day span in five years," said Tamworth's Gilman Tavern Inn owners Bill and Linda Jones. Additionally, 87 percent of respondents to the MWVCC survey said that occupancy rates increased or stayed the same this Columbus Day weekend compared to 2008. The majority of lodging respondents said that occupancy remained the same compared to last year. Yet in this economy, "flat is the new "up," according to many businesses. Mary Ann Meyer of the Mount Washington B&B in Shelburne added, "Columbus Day weekend business was booming with increased visitors. We received many calls both Friday and Saturday concerning last minute availability."
Calls for availability rang in to the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce's offices throughout September and heavily last week as last minute bookers made plans to visit Mt. Washington Valley. "Late last month the chamber received enough calls from travelers looking for rooms, that I put out a call to our lodging members for their availabilities. This happened at least two weeks earlier than this time last year," said Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce Visitor Services personnel, Janet Durkee-Prescott.
When asked what changes respondents observed for Columbus Day 2009 vs. 2008, the majority (44 percent) of respondents said they welcomed more Canadians and fewer families. "It seemed we had less families and more couples or groups of women, doing early holiday shopping," said Lynda Schuepp of The Penguin Gallery of NH. Yet not everyone agreed with the family conclusion. Kathy Bennett claimed that family attendance increased this year at the Ghoullog, and Charlene Browne, co-owner, Farm by the River Bed and Breakfast with Stables concurred that they welcomed more families for horseback riding this year then last year. Mary Ann Mayer, Owner of the Mt. Washington Bed & Breakfast, said that she felt there were more Canadians, international visitors and visitors from the South and West Coast this year.
In general, businesses seemed encouraged with the increased business that Columbus Day Weekend brought. "Overall, we were pleased with the Columbus Day business. The excellent weather certainly helped. There seemed to be an increase in couples 30 and up traveling as well as Canadians," said Terry O'Brien, owner of Red Parka Steakhouse and Pub.
After a successful Columbus Day weekend driven by the spectacular display of fall foliage, Mt Washington Valley businesses look forward to the typically busy holiday shopping season from now until December 24. Looking at the future, 53 percent of respondents predict that business for the upcoming holiday shopping season will stay the same as last year based on advance reservations, sales and events. Yet businesses are guarded. The largest majority predict that business will decrease over last year's holiday shopping season, and all concur that travelers will continue to look for value. "With the jobless rate still at 10 percent nationwide, I think that holiday spending will decrease. Hopefully, with the Chamber's shopping packages, visitors will still come up here for the bargains. Our holiday gift card promotion has always been big. This could be a banner year for this promotion due to the savings for buyers," said Terry O'Brien of the Red Parka Steakhouse and Pub.
At the same time, there's optimism from Mt Washington Valley businesses. Kathy Bennett says "Cranmore season pass sales are up over last year and with our price increase scheduled for November 30, we anticipate continuing brisk sales as consumers look for values more than ever." Lynda Schuepp of The Penguin Gallery of NH said "Because fourth quarter of 2008 was doom and gloom with the great depression being quoted in every other news cast, our business dropped significantly. Since the beginning of 2009 we are back on track, because I think people have assessed their situation and adjusted accordingly."
Generally, the Mt Washington Valley businesses remain cautiously optimistic about the upcoming holiday shopping season. The Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce's Harvest to Holidays shopping promotion will launch in early November with plenty of stay-and-play lodging packages for visiting shoppers. For more information about these packages, vacation planning resources or on visiting Mt Washington Valley, visit www.Mtwashingtonvalley.org or call 1-800-DO-SEE-NH (800-367-3364).
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