Many business owners might say it has been frustrating. Or has thrown a wrench in their summer projections. While responses to the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber’s (MWVCC) Memorial Day wrap-up survey promised a strong summer, twenty-two days of rain in June may have softened that start for some.
Interestingly enough respondents to the informal survey sent out by the MWVCC haven’t shown catastrophic decreases to June business due to rain. While there are some trends with last minute cancellations for lodging properties; the need for malleability from guests who have booked a guiding trip; and the request for flexible tee times for golf courses, many businesses report data that exceeds or is in line with 2019 (pre-covid) numbers and slightly lower than 2022 numbers.
Randy Ouellette, owner of the fly-angling guide service, Swift River Ghillie, shared that while the weather has been difficult, he has been able to take advantage of pockets of good weather to customize trips for his guests.
“Adaptability is key to a seasonal situation like this,” Randy shares. While safety will always be his main concern, and high rains have left rivers he typically fishes on too dangerous at times, he has been able to adjust a percentage of trips and offer his guests boat trips on lakes or streams with a slower current. Guests have been open to this, and are still able to make the most of an excursion despite the rain.
His bookings remain strong throughout July, and into the fall, which shows optimism on the guest’s part.
Jonathan Rivers, owner of Indian Mound Golf Club, shared that “despite some bad weather predictions business has been better than expected.”
Laura Lemieux, Marketing Director at Settlers Green, shared that the rain has been beneficial for shopping, as it is driving visitors inside. “We had a great weekend at Settlers Green. Wet weather has been great for our retailers and restaurants. There's also a lot of buzz with new stores opening including Cotopaxi, which opened on Friday leading into the holiday weekend. We've had a lot of Canadians (French speaking) and international travelers as well.”
Kathy Ahearn of Four Your Paws Only also shared that “our summer has started out very strong, due to the weather. People visiting with their dogs are shopping with them on these rainy days.”
Kevin Flynn of Snowvillage Inn shared that “numbers for July 4th were in line with 2019. Our restaurant was buzzing with folks excited for an off the beaten path epicurean adventure with beautiful surroundings. Our lodging guests enjoyed staying for a long weekend with a cooked breakfast.”
Peter Gagne, owner of The Beach Camping Area shared that campground numbers were up over the 4th of July weekend despite the wet weather, compared to 2022. The campground statistics as a whole have increased from 2022. Revenue from 2019 has doubled under new ownership and major improvements. Campers have been booking an average of three months in advance and Beach Camping has a great repeat following. The rain has caused a 60% drop in store purchases and no income from river activities. Seasoned campers come rain or shine, while new campers bail after one night of rain.
These responses show a strong foundation to the viability of Mt. Washington Valley as a vacation destination regardless of factors outside its control - like a month of rain.
It’s important to note though, that while the MWVCC’s survey showed more positive responses toward the weather than anticipated, there are some businesses that have truly been dealt a tough hand.
Outdoor outfitters, such as Saco River Tubing Center, has closed for multiple days during June. Safety for guests is a primary concern, as water levels are simply too dangerous to float on, and many people lack the previous experience required when canoeing or kayaking in conditions presented by June’s weather.
This impacts not only its bottom line, but its staff as well. Closing due to weather also means losing multiple days of work. It has also affected events and fundraisers on the tubing center’s schedule. Its annual fundraiser series “Paddle for a Cause” has been postponed for a few specific dates, and the fundraiser it runs for all summer long, donating its dog shuttle fee to Conway Area Humane Society is affected by the lack of guests with dogs riding the shuttle.
The dog shuttle fee is not the only thing affecting the humane society either. It is also struggling with the rain as it had to cancel a premier fundraising event, Pints and Paws. Executive Director, Tim Westwig shared “the Conway Area Humane Society is currently seeing the largest amount of locally surrendered animals in our long history, so when we lose an opportunity for a fundraiser due to weather like we did recently for Pints and Paws it’s a problem. Many of our fundraisers are outdoor weather dependent.”
Terry O’Brien, owner of The Red Parka Pub, shared that due to rain the restaurant has not been able to open its patio which leads to longer wait times for the guests.
Outside of the rain, staffing and affordable housing remain constant issues affecting the residents and business community. O’Brien shared that she has “a former line cook that has been trying to find a place to live here again after losing his rental last fall. Because he has dogs, he cannot find a place. Housing is a huge issue.”
Trevor Sullivan, of the White Mountain Hotel shared that guests are enjoying the hotel's renovations, and a more customized experience. So while there has been less occupancy compared to 2022, the guests are paying a higher rate. The success of the hotel’s upgrades and experience still does not mitigate the issues facing staffing the hotel. Trevor shared that “people can't afford to move up here to work. We've had several applicants who can't accept employment because they can't find a place to live.”
The MWVCC realizes that staffing and affordable housing are two very real issues facing the valley. It is providing support in any way it can. It encourages members to continue sharing its issues with the chamber, as it consistently works with officials to perpetuate the importance of addressing these issues on a local, regional, and state level.
“If there’s one thing to know about businesses in the Mt. Washington Valley, they won’t let it rain on their parade. As an outdoor mecca, June has certainly presented its challenges to MWV, and with most of the summer still ahead we’re optimistic about Mother Nature turning this around,” says MWVCC Executive Director, Michelle Cruz. “If there is a business or fundraiser that was impacted by the weather where you would’ve typically participated, we encourage you to still purchase a gift certificate for future use or donate if you intended on buying a ticket. Your support will go a long way in keeping the Valley moving forward. Let the sun shine on!”
While June’s theme has been rain, July and August could turn things around to make for a banner summer. But it’s simply too soon to tell. Overall, responses from the informal survey sent by the chamber show incredible guest loyalty to the area, and adaptability on the part of the business owners. Businesses shared that late summer and early fall bookings are strong, which provides insight that the industry may course correct itself despite weather.
In times of both poor and optimal weather the chamber continues to encourage locals and experienced visitors to always plan ahead and be prepared - and use these resources when altering their plans:
In addition, guiding services are always available to provide any information and direct you in the right direction for details.
To become a member of the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce visit visitmwv.com/members and join it at its next After Hours on July 18, 2023 at Ralph W. Shirley Post #46/American Legion. For more information about visiting Mt Washington Valley during the upcoming summer season, go to www.visitmwv.com, or call 800-367-3364 (800-DO-SEE-NH) For more information on New Hampshire vacations, please visit www.VisitNH.gov.
Fourth of July weekend, and early summer numbers remain strong despite the rain. Conway and North Conway Fourth of July festivities were able to move forward as planned, with hopes that the constant rain will continue to dwindle. Photo ℅ MWVCC.