Photo taken July 4th at Settlers Green as visitors enjoy tax-free shopping at tent sales and shops in the mall. Photo by Laura Tuveson.
North Conway, NH – Despite Mother Nature’s attempt to ambush the key July 4th start-to-summer weekend, Mt Washington Valley tourism-related businesses reported increases over last year in traffic, sales and bookings. After the storm, glorious weather highlighted the region, and visitors flocked to Mt Washington Valley from throughout the country and beyond. It was all topped off with festive parades on both ends of the Valley with music and fireworks in-between. In fact, Greg Fisher, VP of Marketing for Peak Resorts, told the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, “The fact you can make it to two parades on opposite ends of the valley and then meet in the middle for live music and fun is fantastic. It’s what makes this region great.”
Janice Crawford, Executive Director of the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, characterized the July 4th weekend as a sparkling spectacular with the exception of Saturday’s rains which luckily moved out quickly. Janice noted, “Fourth of July festivities filled Schouler Park and the west facing sidewalks of the village from Grove Street to Kearsarge. Cars were parked all the way to Muddy Moose on 16 and North/South Road from Kearsarge to Artists Falls with the rail yard packed and all other available parking lots full. Demand from crowds was so high, non-profit vendors actually sold out of food and drink by 8:00pm”. In addition, throughout the day, walking traffic was strong in North Conway village from 1:00pm on and, the Conway July 4th Parade attracted a record crowd of viewers.
In an informal survey of Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce (MWVCC) members, businesses throughout the Valley reported strong sales, particularly at the attractions. Beth Scrimger, Owner, Mystery NH Escape Rooms, told the chamber that over the five day weekend (Fri, June 30-Tuesday, July 4), Mystery NH was booed at 75-percent capacity, which was up over the same time last year. Scrimger believes as interest and familiarity with Escape rooms grows, their business will continue to succeed.
Bob Tupper of White Lake Speedway in Tamworth reported that they did lose one day to rain, yet despite that, July 4th weekend business was still up over last year for the fun center. Tupper gave kudos to his great staff for a job well done over the long weekend.
At the Conway Scenic Railroad, the storms raised havoc with phones and computers, but didn’t seem to impact ridership, according to Susan Logan, Director of Marketing. “Passenger counts were up over last year for all four days, and there were more international visitors, especially South Asians. We even had some Australians here on Sunday,” commented Logan. In addition, ridership on the Conway Scenic Railroad’s “Firecracker Express” from Conway to Schouler Park for the July 4th festivities, was up 35-percent over last year Logan told the chamber. “The word is getting out that our shuttle is an easy way to get into the Village to enjoy the festivities without having to sit in traffic once the fireworks are over. We received lots of enthusiastic “thank yous” from people who took advantage of combining the train ride with everything going on in Schouler Park,” finished Logan. In fact, advance reservations for the week are up over last year for Conway Scenic Railroad, indicating a strong end to the week too.
Rebecca Metcalf, Mount Washington Cog Railway Marketing Director, told the chamber that the Saturday storms did not impact the train ride at all. In fact, Cog Railway owner, Wayne Presby told the chamber, “The railway has experienced an increase in 2017 over 2016 on the first three days of July of almost 50 percent. We accredit this increase to a few factors; increased capacity with additional trains and an extended schedule, as well as streamlining our customer service to create a smoother experience. We expect this trend to continue throughout the season.”
Greg Fisher, VP of Marketing for Peak Resorts shared that the storms hurt both Wildcat Mountain and Attitash Mountain Resort’s business on Saturday as both resorts ended up closing early due to the heavy rains. However, making lemons from lemonade, Fisher also noted, “But on a flip side the storms also affected hiking trails, river access, and other things into the day on Sunday and Monday which probably steered business to attractions like ours. Overall it was and continues to be a great start to the month of July at our resorts.”
The lodging properties who responded to the MWVCC July 4th business survey were enthusiastic about the weekend. Jennifer Kovach, who describes herself as the Snowvillage Inn Chief Bottle washer, hostess and negotiator, told the chamber that the inn and restaurant were up over last year by about 20-percent. In fact, she reported that the storm resulted in additional bookings from those at campgrounds looking for shelter. Kovach believes that the chamber newsletters also helped to boost July 4th business, saying “When they receive the Mt Washington Valley Chamber newsletter with all the local activities including music at Tuckerman Brewing, Arts Jubilee and highlights of the Auto Road and Cog Railway, folks book.”
Charlie Mallar, co-owner of the 1785 Inn, told the chamber it was the busiest July 4th weekend for the inn. “For us, this is the busiest Fourth of July that I can remember in our 34 years here. We were sold out Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday and were busy on Tuesday too.” Mallar also shared that domestic visitors were way up yet international visitors were off a bit due to what he calls the “Trump effect”. Mallar finished by telling the chamber that advance-reservations from visitors throughout the U.S. are also up over last year for the summer.
Campgrounds took the brunt of the storm, with varying impacts depending upon their location, but all were re-opened and fully functioning now. Marilyn O’Boyle from Beach Camping Area along the Saco River in Conway, said they lost business on Saturday and Sunday due to the storm, but the campground is fully up and running. Representatives from Danforth Bay Camping and RV Resort, Woodland Acres Campground, Glen Ellis Family Campground, and Saco River Camping Area all concurred that the campgrounds are up and running. For more information about the impact of the storm and subsequent re-opening of campgrounds, click here.
Marianne Leberman, Recreation and Wilderness Program Leader at the White Mountain National Forest, told the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce that all the camping sites and day use picnic areas are now open in the National Forest after Saturday’s storm. While a few of the natural swimming holes were closed over the weekend due to high water from the rain, they have now been re-opened.
On beautiful weather days, stores, outlets and shops compete with attractions and outdoor recreation for visitors. Yet over the July 4th weekend, summer shoppers were both in the village and at Settlers Green’s outlets. Laura Tuveson, Assistant Director of Marketing & Events for Settlers Green and Settlers Crossing, polled the stores at the mall and reported that 85-percent of their stores saw shoppers from the Canadian market and 70-percent reported shoppers from the Boston market. She also shared, “There were so many bargains to be had with many stores hosting sidewalk sales and specials for the holiday weekend. Monday stands out as the best sales day for the majority of our stores and many reported that traffic within the mall was steady all days.”
Heather Letarte White Gates Farm Office Manager, reported that business at the farm stand was actually down 15-percent, saying that it seemed like shoppers were spending less at the market and they didn’t see as much traffic at the self-serve stand as in past years. And while the storm forced an alteration to the farm’s Farm to Table dinner on Saturday, it was still a huge success.
Bud Selmi, owner of Margarita Grill in Glen said that 4.5 inches of rain in less than two hours defiantly hurt the restaurant’s business on Saturday, resulting in sales being down by 25-percent for the day on Saturday and 12-percent on Sunday. Yet Monday was up by 26-percent, helping to pull out a decent the weekend, according to Selmi.
With lodging properties and attractions reporting advance reservations up over last year, the remaining weeks of the summer look strong for the tourism outlook in Mt Washington Valley. To learn more about planning a vacation in the Valley, visit www.mtwashingtonvalley.org or call 800-367-3364. To plan a New Hampshire summer getaway, visit www.VisitNH.gov.
PR Manager, Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce