Mt Washington Valley businesses report strong Christmas Week
MT WASHINGTON VALLEY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE NEWS – January 5, 2015
CONTACT: Marti Mayne, 207-846-6331, PR@mtwashingtonvalley.org
CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR’S WRAP UP FROM MT WASHINGTON VALLEY, NH
Weather conditions prove challenging for ski resort and snowmobile renters, but boon for others
North Conway, NH – The mixed bag of weather delivered by Mother Nature in Mt Washington Valley for Christmas week resulted in a mixed blessing for chamber members. According to an informal survey by the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, weather conditions over the vacation weeks were a challenge for some ski resorts and XC Centers and a boon for other businesses. Rain on Christmas followed by a warming trend left some ski resorts and XC Centers challenged, yet they rose to the occasion cultivate the snow they had. Rain in the lower elevations was snow in the upper parts of the notches, leaving Great Glen Trails, Wildcat Mountain and Bretton Woods with early season snow and more to work with.
“Despite wavering weather challenges, Mt Washington Valley businesses offered up a fabulous winter experience to visitors celebrating the Christmas and New Year’s holiday in Mt Washington Valley,” commented Janice Crawford, Executive Director of the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Plenty of businesses reported increases in sales over last year and indicated visitors were more willing to spend this holiday season than the past few years,” finished Crawford who also noted that the timing of the holiday helped to boost bookings on the first weekend of the year for lodging properties.
Retailers responding the survey were optimistic. Dot Seybold, General Manager of Settlers’ Green Outlet Village, said she thought that sales were brisk and strong throughout the holiday week. Nancy White Cassidy, Owner, The Cassidy Gallery At Jackson Village, told the chamber, “Our sales between Christmas and New Year’s Eve more than doubled from last year. Our New Year’s Eve sales were up 100-percent. We were extremely busy all day. Cassidy shared that “We definitely see a loosening of purse strings, and a willingness to purchase more expensive items. We also attribute this to customers buying for second homes or new homes.”
Timothy W. Psaledakis, owner of Jewelry by Timothy W. Psaledakis said that sales numbers were a bit better than last year and sales volumes were consistent with past years.
Lynda Schuepp, owner of The Penguin Gallery of NH in North Conway Village, reported a 13-percent increase over last year in sales for Christmas week and a 26-percent increase for New Year’s Eve. Schuepp suggested the weather drove people to shop rather than spend time outdoors, sharing that the store saw an 8-percent increase in customer traffic over the holiday week. Schuepp shared that she felt more people were interested in shopping in a local store than online this holiday season too.
Most lodging properties responding to the survey explained with the Christmas and New Year’s holiday falling on a Thursday, more visitors planned four-day vacations taking advantage of offices being closed on both the holiday Thursday and the Friday afterward. This helped to boost bookings particularly on the first weekend of the year after the New Year’s holiday. Cindy Foster, Director of Sales Hampton Inn and Suites, explained “New Years Eve was a sellout this year and last too, however the first of January was also a sell out this year, primarily because it fell on a Friday and thus many guests made a long weekend of the holiday where January 1 2014 the was 60-percent full. As a matter of fact our occupancy for the entire weekend of Jan 1-3 was boosted because of where New Years fell this year.” While Christmas Eve and Christmas warm and rainy weather contributed to a number of cancellations at the Hampton Inn and Suites, Foster shared that this year on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the hotel was significantly up over 2013, primarily from travelers from the U.S. and other foreign countries that did not celebrate the Christian Christmas holiday.
Steve Lambert, innkeeper at the Bernerhof Inn B&B, told the chamber that Christmas and New Years were up 18-percent over last year, attributing a large part of the change to more corporate and small office parties being held at the inn. He also noted that elopements were popular over the holidays there and the Sleigh Ride packages were a hit. Just before New Year’s the Bernerhof Inn was featured as a prize on the Wheel of Fortune, which aired in 44 million homes and 14 countries.
Kevin Flynn and Jennifer Kovach, co-owners of the Snowvillage Inn and Max's Restaurant, responded to the survey explaining that extended stays (three or more days) during Christmas week were a big boon for the inn. They also reported a 25-percent increase over last year for New Year’s Eve explaining that their fine dining experience coupled with inn accommodations is what people were seeking. To explain changes in sales from last year to this year, Flynn and Kovach shared, “With the early November snow, the Chamber's marketing efforts on social media regarding how great skiing and other outdoor recreation were, people knew that coming to the Mt Washington Valley not only could they feel that "traditional Christmas spirit", but there was something for everyone in their family to do. The Mt Washington Valley has been and is continuing to be THE place for tradition. Families have been coming up here for years, now the kids are bringing their children to experience what they remember loving as a child.”
John and Mary Kendzierski, new innkeepers and owners of the Inn at Ellis River in Jackson, NH, shared that Christmas week 2014 was up by 10-percent compared to 2013 and New Year's Eve 2014 was up by 46-percent compared to 2013. Other hotels asking not to be identified explained that the timing of the holiday and the increased number of families this year help to explain increases in bookings and revenues for the holiday weeks.
Ski resorts and XC Center weighed in with mixed results. For Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Pinkham Notch, rain earlier in the season was snow on their trails giving them a jump-start on the season. Howie Wemyss, General Manager, reported enthusiastically to the survey saying, “We’ve concluded a record breaking vacation week, and a record breaking December. It’s all about elevation, and this year we benefitted in a huge way with lots of snow when many places were getting rain and word quickly got out.” Wemyss went on to further explain, “Our big promotion with the Mt Washington SnowCoach really has paid off with almost every day of vacation week selling out. There’s no comparing this week with any other Christmas vacation week, we’ve simply never had one this successful; a fantastic start to the winter for us.”
However, at lower elevations in Jackson, it was a matter of making lemonade from lemons. Breanne Torrey, Executive Director, Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, shared that the XC Center saw a 43-percent decrease in revenue this Christmas vacation week compared to this same week in 2013 and a 60-percent decrease in revenue from 2013 on New Year’s Eve, attributing the decline to weather related skiing conditions. According to Torrey, “Last year, in 2013, Jackson Ski Touring had some of the best conditions around for cross country skiing. Many areas in Vermont, Western New Hampshire and Southern Maine did not have good snow, which caused XC skiers to flock to Jackson where the good skiing was. This led to above average visitation numbers in 2013, and skewed our 2014 numbers when comparing them to the previous year. This week in 2014, we were only 30% open.” Of course Jackson Ski Touring offered great conditions on what terrain was open, but they were up against public perception that there wasn’t much snow this year.
Becca Deschenes, Marketing Director at Cranmore Mountain Resort, told the chamber that the vacation week got off to rough start with a wet Christmas Eve and Christmas holiday, but things picked up toward the new year. According to Deschenes, “We made up the numbers and snow, and Cranmore will finish the vacation period only slightly behind last year.” Deschenes also explained that off-hill activities were definitely a plus with the difficult weather, and that after cold temperatures returned snowmaking started again at every opportunity allowing the resort to open more terrain and increase snow depths on trails.
Terry MacGillivray, owner of Northeast Snowmobile & ATV Rentals, weighed in saying that snowmobile rentals were down by 40-percent at the Gorham location and that their Fryeburg location is closed due to lack of snow.
Thus, it was a mixed bag of reports for the holiday weeks from Mt Washington Valley. Businesses are generally optimistic about the upcoming year and the rest of the ski season, putting their full faith in snowmaking capabilities at the ski resorts and some overdue deliveries of snow from Mother Nature. According to Tom Kugel, from Cafe Noche in Conway, “Even with the lack of snow we have had a great week with fun happy customers. It feels like good times are ahead!” With so much to do on and off the mountains, Mt Washington Valley is well poised to continue the rest of the winter season ahead of last year.
For more information on Mt Washington Valley, visit www.MtWashingtonValley.org. To speak with a vacation concierge, call 1-800-DO-SEE-NH (800-367-3364). To learn more about New Hampshire vacation opportunities, visit www.VisitNH.gov.
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