Mother Nature really delivered for Memorial Day Weekend this year. The weather helped provide the epitome of a Mt. Washington Valley experience, with warm weather and blue skies. Visitors flocked to the area to paddle the Saco River, play at theme parks and attractions, shop, hike, and ATV, and more.
Many businesses responded to an informal survey sent by the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. Responses and conversations between the chamber and business owners show that Memorial Day Weekend is just a glimpse into how strong summer of 2023 will be for Mt. Washington Valley.
Greg Neptune of Conway Scenic Railroad reported that the train was sold out for each of its daily rides scheduled over the weekend. Ridership and customer loyalty to the vintage train has only increased over the years. Conway Scenic Railroad is seeing that consistency and devotion play out in repeat riders.
Megan Macgillvary of Northeast ATV in Gorham, shared that business had a strong start to its season, especially on Saturday. “Northeast ATV allows visitors to view scenery from a different vantage point. It’s an accessible way to be outdoors for a range of abilities, which makes atv-ing a great option for groups and families.”
Daren Levitt, owner of Toy Chest in North Conway Village had a much better Memorial Day than anticipated. Typically, perfect sunny days keep shoppers away from the village, as they are typically out on trails or on the river. This year it didn’t. Levitt shared that he saw an equal mix of returning families as well as new visitors to the valley.
Information like that of what Daren Levitt shared shows that while Mt. Washington Valley is a mecca for outdoor adventure, it’s also a destination that offers a well-rounded experience for visitors who aren’t necessarily looking for an outdoor adventure based vacation. Amplifying the diverse experience a person or family could have in the valley is important as the chamber continues to support sustainable tourism, ethical recreation and managing the impact of high traffic areas throughout the valley.
Some initiatives of the chamber that reinforce that support include its MWV Pledge, Learn from a Local, Live Like a Local, and Hire A Guide.
The MWV Pledge is a ten-point responsibility code that encourages respectful and safe behavior while recreating. Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to sign their name to the pledge at www.mwvpledge.com.
Learn from a Local, Live Like a Local initiative spotlights locals and their best ways to spend a day in the valley. Locals provide itineraries that visitors can base a trip off, and they share their ethos on how they respect the community as a resident. Learn more at www.visitmwv.com/locals.
The Hire A Guide initiative collaborates with local guides, sharing the reasons it’s important to recreate with an experienced outdoor leader. Guides share safety information, signature trips, and principles on how best to preserve natural resources. Learn more at www.visitmwv.com/guided-adventure.
The principles shared throughout each of the initiatives above are reflected in the community as well, with businesses putting their own spin on Leave No Trace, and MWV Pledge. The staff at Saco River Tubing Center equips each guest with trash bags before they head out on the river, and educates them on carry-in and carry-out. While 2022 had a massive heat wave over Memorial Day Weekend, this year the water was too cold, meaning less tubers, but a steady flow of canoers. Water temperatures and levels also dictate restrictions Saco River Tubing Center puts on the ages of river-goers, only allowing adults 18 and older to head out onto the river.
These factors affected Saco River Tubing Center’s numbers, as they were slightly off comparatively for the month of June, and Beach Camping Area is right in line with last year’s numbers. Industry sources within nationwide camping organizations have shared that camping is down 6% across the country, but interestingly enough revenue per camper has increased.
This data point is particularly meaningful because it shows the power of the individual experience. It seems as though quality over quantity may become a new marker for businesses who see the number of customers go down, but their revenue increases. Visitors are willing to buy more, or pay more for personalization or add-ons.
Jen Kovach co-owner of the Snowvillage Inn shared that differentiation in her business’ numbers as well. Their numbers are in line with those of 2019, but she noticed that couples outweighed the inn’s reservations, but larger groups dominated their restaurant’s reservations.
Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts still continue to be the main states the valley’s visitors are coming from. Those from New York and New Jersey are holding strong as a secondary market. Respondents to the informal survey sent by the chamber, shared that their visitors were split between those that make $150,000 or more and those that make less than $150,000. The chamber has set advertising metrics to families and couples who trend toward sustainable initiatives, make more than $150,000 and are looking for quality dining, event and entertainment, shopping, and outdoor experiences.
“This was certainly a strong start to the season ahead. With the anticipation of increased visitation this summer, the chamber is working diligently on getting information to our visitors to be sure they are aware of all that is offered in the Mt. Washington Valley, and we continue to bring awareness to responsible recreation and tourism, through the MWV Pledge, Hire a Guide, and Learn from a Local, Live Like a Local. It is truly a place for all ages when it comes to the variety of activities, events and things to do in the Valley,” says Mt. Washington Valley Executive Director, Michelle Cruz.
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 June 20, 2023 at Cranmore Mountain Lodge. 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.