A look at Labor Day and Summer 2020 business trends in Mt Washington Valley, NH
News from Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce – September 9, 2020
Contact: Marti Mayne, 207-846-6331, PR@MtWashingtonValley.org
MT WASHINGTON VALLEY USHERS IN FALL WITH STRONG LABOR DAY WEEKEND
Businesses report “summer like no other” with new visitor profile
North Conway, NH – Recently, the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce surveyed members to learn how both Labor Day weekend and summer business fared throughout the community. In short, the Labor Day holiday weekend offered a strong end to the traditional summer season in Mt Washington Valley with many businesses exceeding last year’s sales. On the other hand, with closures well into June and beyond for many businesses, the overall feeling among the Mt Washington Valley business community was that numbers did not meet either the goals or the sales for last year for summer 2020. In addition, there’s a clear consensus among the Valley’s business community that a new visitor profile is developing. With desire to get outdoors and into the mountains this summer, the Valley is seeing more day-trippers and first-time visitors. The Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce has launched a safety campaign encouraging social distancing and mask wearing via signage throughout the community along with a request for courtesy toward fellow visitors and residents.
Many of the businesses reporting to the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce’s survey conveyed that Labor Day weekend was very strong. “Labor Day was sold out all three nights and revenue was up considerably,” reported Ellie Koeppel, owner and GM at The Wentworth Inn in Jackson.
Stephanie Orr, Senior VP Marketing & Sales at Red Jacket Resorts, told the chamber that sales were up more than 60 percent over last year for the hotel in North Conway, citing the fantastic weather, pent up demand, Mt Washington Valley being a safe destination and later start to school as reasons for more bookings this year.
In addition, Christopher Bellis, co-owner of the Cranmore Inn, told the chamber, “Labor Day in 2020 was better than last year for the Cranmore Inn. Occupancy was up 3.33 percent and revenue was up 30.8 percent with both weekends each year being sold out.”
Jonathan Rivers, General Manager and Golf Pro at Indian Mound Golf Club also reported that business was up over last year for the course and restaurant. “It was a nice weekend. We got rained out last year for Labor Day, but with perfect weather this year we were able to beat last year's numbers,” said Rivers in response to the chamber’s survey.
Story Land posted a sold out weekend for it’s final weekend before closing. “Labor Day 2020 was a strong comparison to Labor Day 2019 with Saturday, Sunday and Labor Day Monday selling out,” said Lauren Hawkins, Story Land’s Director of Marketing. “In 2019 attendance for the weekend was stronger with 2020 coming in 20 percent under due to capacity restrictions. Labor Day Monday in 2019 was a rainy day which did impact attendance considerably while we had an absolutely perfect long weekend in 2020,” she finished.
And Becca Deschenes, Marketing Director at Cranmore Mountain Resort, conveyed that the Labor Day weekend was right on par with their expectations, given the limited capacity restrictions at the resort. Ben Wilcox, GM at Cranmore added, “The Mountain Bike Park had its biggest day of the summer on Sunday of Labor Day Weekend; we rented just about every bike we had. It was probably the best weekend of the summer.”
“Cranmore had a strong weekend to finish off what was a strong summer despite some the operational changes we had to make this summer due to Covid,” Deschenes explained. “Because of capacity restrictions and switching up our product offering for the summer, we really can't compare to last season, but we went through Labor Day right where we wanted to be based off of our adjusted forecast and budget,” Deschenes told the chamber.
While he hasn’t met sales like last year, Timothy Psaledakis, owner of Jewelry by Timothy W Psaledakis & Friends has found a silver lining to the Covid restrictions for his store. “I’m working alone and by appointment only, one family at a time. Of course this results in lower sales, and yet at a welcome trade off! I’m able to dedicate my time to just the client in front of me and I’m better able to accomplish their requests even more often while they wait! Money isn’t everything- health and sanity are more precious and giving each client and their heirloom jewelry the dedication of time and attention is a mode of operation I’ll likely keep long after Covid is a footnote in history,” Tim told the Mt Washington Valley Chamber.
Looking back at the summer, nearly all businesses throughout the Valley lost all of their May and June revenues while struggling to re-open. Yet, with the pandemic, the Mt Washington Valley community experienced a change in their visitor profile. Many older travelers stayed home, choosing not to travel this year, while other housebound families and younger travelers sought refuge from the four walls of home in the White Mountains and the Mt Washington Valley. Lodging properties varied in the reports for July and August, with larger properties more likely to skew toward positive numbers.
Ellie Koeppel reported that July was up over last year by 25.1 percent and August was up by 32.8 percent at The Wentworth in Jackson.
Stephanie Orr explained that bookings have been up at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort all summer, entirely due to leisure travel, replacing group bookings, weddings and meetings from past years.
Yet, Christopher Bellis shared that his smaller B&B didn’t fare as well during July and August. “Summer 2020 has been an interesting season with overall sales being down due to COVID and travel restrictions. Overall our room nights were down a total of 32 percent in 2020 for July/August when compared to 2019. Revenues were down 27.5 percent in July/August which is better because we were seeing a great many weekend travelers but were seeing less people travelling during the week,” Bellis reported to the chamber.
Additionally, Christopher Bellis has maintained a collective lodging survey of Mt Washington Valley properties. For July (the most recent info available), occupancy dropped at the Mt Washington Valley properties reporting to the survey by 21.7 percent with a loss per room of $262.06. “If I extrapolate out the loss of $262.06 per room across the 4400 rooms in the MWV that would be a loss of over $1.15 million in revenue for all the properties (For comparative purposes the overall loss in NH for lodging in July 2020 compared to July 2019 is $34.9 million),” explained Bellis.
For attractions, Jonathan Rivers explained that at Indian Mound Golf Club, “We have lost a few golf tournaments for the fall season, but we should be able to finish strong. After being shut down for 2.5 months we have been able to reset our golf business and food and beverage is slowly getting better week by week.”
Looking back at the summer at Story Land, Lauren Hawkins admitted that it was a challenging few months. “Overall the Story Land 2020 season was challenging with capacity restrictions, guest hesitation in booking and reservation requirements hindering commitment. As our shortened season progressed, we saw attendance grow and we finished the season with a sold out weekend. The overwhelming majority of our guests this season were very appreciative of our safety protocols, cleaning procedures and felt extremely safe at our park while having a great time with family and friends. Requiring facial coverings went well with very little issue, our guests adapted and had a blast,” explained Hawkins.
In addition, the new Living Shores Aquarium closed this spring and has not re-opened but the attraction’s Pasta Mia restaurant did re-open when staff was eventually found. Hawkins explained that the restaurant has done well throughout August and into September, with some exciting new events coming this fall.
Becca Deschenes concurred with similar impressions of the summer. “We were fortunate to be going into the summer season with the bike park - that fit in perfectly into our 2020 summer operations. The bike park met the original goals we had in place that were bike park specific, prior to Covid. The adventure parks have been very popular, especially the rides (Mountain Coaster, Soaring Eagle, and giant swing), and it’s not uncommon that this part of our operation has been selling out, sometimes days in advance throughout the summer,” Deschenes reported.
Dot Seybold, GM of Settlers Green told the chamber that people have been shopping and buying this summer. “However, the difficulty for some stores are that they can’t be for the open full hours due to staff shortages in the Valley, while other stores are meeting last year’s numbers for the summer. The stores catering to younger visitors have done extremely well this summer,” Dot told the chamber.
Looking toward fall, businesses in the Valley expect to see a different crowd. Typically the time that motorcoach tours and international visitors fill the lodging, restaurants, and attractions this fall season is expected to be packed with drive-in visitors from throughout the East Coast. Motorcoach tours have cancelled and international visitors have pushed off visits until next year, yet if indicators follow the summer patterns, visitors from throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic states will take drive-in vacations to view Mt Washington Valley’s premier fall foliage vistas. This means shorter booking windows for lodging properties (motorcoach tours and international visitors tend to book up to a year in advance).
One thing is certain. Mother Nature never disappoints and those who visit this fall will be treated to beautiful color in the White Mountains, recently chosen among the top five fall foliage destinations in the country by USA Today’s 10Best.
For more information on visiting Mt Washington Valley, NH and complete trip planning resources, go to www.MtWashingtonValley.org or call 800-367-3364. For information on planning your New Hampshire trip, go to www.VisitNH.gov.
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Photo provided by Story Land. For additional photos, contact Marti Mayne at PR@mtwashingtonvalley.org.