North Conway, NH – The sentiment was overwhelmingly positive from businesses responding to an informal post-Memorial Day survey distributed to members of the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce (MWVCC) on Monday, May 30. Nearly every business responding to the survey reported traffic and revenues were up over last year’s Memorial Day weekend, with a number reporting the best start to summer they’ve had in decades. Optimism for the upcoming summer months is strong, with most businesses reporting that lower gas prices, an earlier start to the summer season given less snow days and consumer confidence will lead to more people hitting the road for Mt Washington Valley this summer.
“By all accounts, Memorial Day weekend is the fourth largest travel holiday for the state of New Hampshire,” said Janice Crawford, Executive Director of the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. “And while it’s not officially the start of the summer, in the minds of our tourism community the Memorial Day holiday is a good bellwether for how summer season will go. Given feedback from our members plus national and regional indicators, we are very optimistic that the strong Memorial Day weekend in Mt Washington Valley is an omen for the rest of the summer. We’re looking forward to what could be a record-setting summer for the tourism community in Mt Washington Valley,” finished Crawford.
A number of lodging properties weighed in on the survey with enthusiasm for the weekend. Donna Pearce, owner and innkeeper at Admiral Peary House in Fryeburg, shared that Stone Mountain Arts Center Concerts and Fryeburg Academy’s graduation filled the house over Memorial Day weekend, sharing also that some summer and fall weekends are already fully booked, and reservations are strong for the summer there.
Christopher Bellis at Cranmore Inn in North Conway also reported a full house, with guests from Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, while noting that advance reservations for the summer are trending toward exceeding summer months for the past four years.
Mary Ann Mayer, owner/innkeeper at Mt. Washington Bed & Breakfast in Shelburne, reported that the B&B was full most of the weekend, well above last year’s bookings, with half the guests hailing from Germany and England. When asked about a prediction for the summer, Mayer responded, “My thoughts on the summer is that it is going to be very busy. After a slow winter I think people are looking to get away on vacations. Advance reservations are better this year than for last year – and last year was a very busy summer.”
Charlie Mallar, co-owner/innkeeper at the 1785 Inn in Intervale, was happy to report that his guests sat by the pool this year rather than around the fireplace where they were last year for a chilly Memorial Day weekend. He too reported a busier Memorial Day weekend this summer compared to last year, and also welcomed guests from overseas including Denmark and Israel.
Bill Petrone, co-owner of the Buttonwood Inn in North Conway, said his numbers did not exceed last year for the holiday weekend but given advance reservations, the summer is shaping up to be as strong as last year.
Tom Spaulding, General Manager of Hampton Inn & Suites in North Conway, reported 9-percent increase in bookings over last year’s Memorial Day weekend. Spaulding speculated that lower gas prices helped to spur travel this year, and also noted that bookings are pacing ahead of last year for the upcoming summer.
Steve Lambert, innkeeper at the Bernerhof Inn in Glen, noted that he sold 20 more room nights this year than last year for Memorial Day weekend, adding that the great weather, many regional weddings and Canadian travelers staying over through Victoria Weekend contributed to the increase in bookings this year. Lambert speculates that pent-up demand for travel is fueling bookings from mid-June through August at the inn, with many hikers planning to hit the trails this summer.
Andrea Walsh, at the World Fellowship Camp & Conference Center, reported that participation in their volunteer weekend was even with last year and that they’re looking forward to a great summer.
Weighing in from the Beach Family Camping Area in North Conway, Tom O’Boyle noted that revenues were up 40-percent over last year’s Memorial Day weekend. He reported more families and more first-time campers contributed to the increase, and also speculated that Memorial day being later in the month this year contributed to the increase. He too reported campground reservations are ahead of past summers.
On the restaurant scene, sales were also brisk, according to Christopher Bellis, co-owner of Chef’s Bistro in North Conway. The restaurant recorded a 5-percent increase in sales over last year’s Memorial Day weekend, even with a reportedly slower start to the weekend.
Likewise, Terry O’Brien from Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub in Glen said the restaurant posted a great Memorial Day weekend. According to O’Brien, “We were up over last year. We had a great early rush on Saturday (probably due to the 90 degree temperatures!) with a lot of happy families joining us.”
And across the street in Glen, Bud Selmi of the Margarita Grill reported that the weekend sales were up slightly over last year with Saturday being the strongest day of the weekend there too.
Steve Lambert also reported that dining room sales at the Bernerhof Inn were up over last year by 6-percent.
According to Jonathan Rivers at Indian Mound Golf Club in Ossipee, “If this is any indication, this will be record breaking summer. We had had our best Memorial Day Weekend in the years since I’ve been here both for golf and food & beverage.” Rivers finished by explaining that the golf course conditions are the best they’ve seen in years for early season, resulting in many happy golfers.
Howie Wemyss, General Manager of the Mt Washington Auto Road in Pinkham Notch, also reported a record Memorial Day weekend, telling the chamber, “This is the best Memorial Weekend we’ve had this decade. Last year was the best of the decade and we’re beating that by 20-percent so far. There’s a very positive vibe from our guests in this early part of the season that makes us feel very confident of a great summer.”
Similarly, Becky Metcalf of the Mt Washington Cog Railway, also reported that Memorial Day sales were up over last year. Cathy Bedor, Cog Railway co-owner added, “Our web traffic was up 20-percentover last year. And I think it may be in response to the Tour that the very first Cog Locomotive, Peppersass, is taking around New England for her 150th birthday!”
And Becca Deschenes, Marketing Director for Cranmore Mountain Resort, also chimed in with good news from the Adventure Park. “The holiday weekend was a great kick-off to summer. Our Aerial Adventure Park saw an increase of 22-percent in visitors and our Mountain Adventure Park was up 48-percent in visits, both over last year’s holiday weekend. I think with lower gas prices and a stronger economy, we’ll be looking at a banner summer,” shared Deschenes.
Bob Tupper, of White Lake Speedway in Tamworth, was pleasantly surprised by the strong weekend business, sharing that this year’s Memorial Day weekend was possibly the best one ever for the Speedway. All three days of the holiday weekend were strong, including Monday as travelers headed south back home. Tupper speculates that the weather really fueled visitors to the Speedway this holiday weekend.
Susan Logan, Marketing Director for the Conway Scenic Railroad reported that passenger counts in First Class and food sales were up for the train over Memorial Day weekend. While most of their passengers were from the six New England states the train also welcomed guests from Maryland, New Jersey, Quebec and Ontario. Logan shared, “Interestingly enough, during the week going into the Holiday weekend, we welcomed guests from Finland, Brazil, England (numerous couples from London), and a group of 14 Chinese tourists. We also hosted people from North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Texas, and California – markets that we typically see in the Fall.”
Greg Fisher of Peak Resorts and Attitash Mountain Resort reported that Attiash only offered ZipTour, Scenic Rides, and Mountain Coaster this year for the holiday weekend. The Zip Tour sold out on Saturday, had a very strong Sunday, and then on Monday was slower due to the morning fog and forecasted rain. He agreed with others’ observations that the sunny weather over the weekend really helped spur traffic, while the dire forecasts that never really materialized might have hurt attendance on Monday. Father’s Day Weekend kicks off the full daily operation for Attitash, with a 40th anniversary for the Attitash Alpine Slide.
While few retailers responded to the chamber’s survey, we did hear from Amber Dalton at Spruce Hurricane in North Conway Village that Saturday was down from last year due to hot sunny weather (great for outdoor attractions, but not so much for retailers). Yet, she reported Sunday was up from last year probably because of cool rainy weather which drives shoppers.
According to Dot Seybold, General Manager of Settlers Green, the warmer weather on Saturday sent visitors in pursuit of outdoor recreation, yet on Sunday and Monday of the holiday weekend there was a lot of traffic into the center. Additionally, Seybold observed a small increase in Canadian traffic, mostly the eastern provinces, and Laura Tuveson, also from Settlers Green added, “Overall, it was a solid weekend to kick off summer tourism in the area. Yankee Candle, Hanesbrands and Brooks Brothers reported strong success with sidewalk sales, which ran Friday through Monday, along with a host of other stores promoting Memorial Day sales events.”
Moving toward summer, 2016 it is clear that optimism reigns for a strong summer in Mt Washington Valley. According to national experts, driving vacations are expected to be at strong this year due to lower gas prices and the tendency of travelers to make domestic trips this summer. That bodes well for Mt Washington Valley businesses.
For more information on visiting Mt Washington Valley, visit www.MtWashingtonValley.org for full vacation planning resources or call 1-800-DO-SEE-NH (800-367-3364). To learn more about visiting New Hampshire, go to www.VisitNH.gov.