Businesses report a strong week, and strong winter regardless of weather.
Photo c/o Dan Houde, WiseguyCreative.com.
Shops, restaurants, and lodging properties are tasked with meeting the expectations of families and winter adventurers looking to make the most of February Vacation regardless of weather challenges. Thank you to the hardworking business owners, and grooming and snowmaking teams who worked hard to exceed those visitor expectations. (Wildcat Mountain's team pictured here.)
February Vacation is a critical point in the winter season for destinations, and can be a week that justifies opening for the season at all. It’s a vacation where families are determined to make the most of the time they have off collectively from work and school. It’s also a marker in winter, where many vacationers need to renew their love for winter with an outdoor recreation focused trip, as the depths of the season takes its toll.
Shops, restaurants, and lodging properties are tasked with meeting those expectations, and for February Vacation 2023, Mt. Washington Valley businesses did. Survey reports sent out by the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce received responses that overall, reflected a strong February Vacation.
Many lodging properties shared their booking numbers were up for February Vacation, compared to not only 2022, but 2019 as well. Showing growth over the last three years is a testament to the quality of the destination as a whole, and the hard work of each business owner to steward their property through a pandemic.
Comparing their numbers as a whole to the entire winter season, lodging property owners did share some interesting outliers to the data. Some properties had a very strong month of January, but February Vacation fell slightly short of their numbers from 2022. Erratic temperatures and lack of snow were the main reasons for the lack of bookings.
Ironically, areas of Mt. Washington Valley had the most snow coverage in all of New England according to resources such as NOAA.gov. So while the flakes weren’t falling, those seeking snow were guaranteed to find it. Some winter outfitters reported record numbers for February Vacation.
In the case of Peter Gagne, owner of Northern Extremes Snowmobiling, his Bartlett location broke records with snowmobile tours and bookings. On the other side of the coin though, his Bretton Woods location has been closed for most of winter due to lack of snow needed to operate snowmobiles. Despite the paradox of Bartlett having more snow than Bretton Woods, and being down one location, Peter saw a 20% increase in business compared to 2022.
Chamber Executive Director, Michelle Cruz, responds to February Vacation’s weather with thanks to business owners and the grooming and snowmaking teams at ski resorts: “With less than favorable temps earlier this winter, the Mt. Washington Valley still had snow to enjoy, even during winter vacation. The ski areas have also been hard at work with snow making to keep trails accessible. The MWV is a major destination for February vacation, especially for those who are a drive away. Thank you to the businesses and their staff who work so hard to accommodate our visitors and provide a memorable time.”
Of course, weather will always play a significant factor in bookings, especially when it comes to Mt. Washington Valley’s drive market. It’s easier to cancel a vacation when you’re only driving to the destination, instead of flying. Canceling hotel reservations and a flight becomes much more expensive, and problematic. Drive markets also typically book only two-night stays, making it easier to cancel and rearrange their vacation week. Their incentive to cancel a two night getaway increasingly dwindles the longer their stay becomes.
To that end, the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey to 20,000 readers of USA Today in the New York/Manhattan area. Reaching multiple zip codes, the chamber specifically asked what could be done to encourage five-night vacations to the area. Two answers took the lead: lodging specials, and trip itineraries.
In response to that feedback, Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce has already tailored its content to meet the five-day itinerary needs by producing several itineraries that focus on how to spend a week in many of the villages in Mt. Washington Valley. Itineraries are shared through its online platforms targeted to visitors, and the content can be found on www.visitmwv.com.
This type of content is also applied to its digital marketing campaign, conducted in partnership with Drive Brand Studio that reaches visitors throughout New England, encouraging them to choose Mt. Washington Valley as their vacation destination.
March is showing signs of slowing as it pertains to reservations. Two storms promising between eight to twelve inches could change that pattern, and extend the season. Lodging properties have also shared that their spring and summer bookings are already exceeding those of 2019.
Debbie Orloff from the Starlight Lodge shared that while the lodge experienced a stall in its January and February bookings compared to last year, the lodge’s pre bookings for summer are the highest they have been in five years. The lodge itself has been highly engaged in growing its presence in the market, and its hard work is paying off.
This winter was not without challenges, but the trends show the destination holds strong as a premier choice for visitors, not only in winter, but for the upcoming spring and summer seasons as well.
The Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce is taking feedback from both visitors and members to heart, and will continue to build out itineraries that encourage multi-night bookings, and ways to fill the five-plus days they book. The chamber also encourages all members who have specials, booking incentives, midweek pricing, and more to send high-quality photos and information to firstname.lastname@example.org so its marketing team can share the information with its visitor audience.
Members should also mark April 18th in their calendars for the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber Business Forum and Expo. The focus of the event is on small business development, transportation and Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure, the economic impact of NH’s outdoor industry, and workforce initiatives in the Valley. Workshop speakers from around the state who are experts in the above topics, will be sharing their insight in panel discussions. Exhibitor space is open for the event, and provides a great opportunity for grassroots marketing. Exhibitor registration and event information can be found at www.mwvexpo.com.