The Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted the Outdoor Industry Business Expo22 on April 19th at the AMC Highland Center in Bretton Woods.
This all-day conference focused on continuing the conversation around how to ethically and sustainably sell outdoor recreation in Mt. Washington Valley. This conversation is one that has only grown louder over the last few years, and while sustainable tourism is not a new concept, it has become a growing concern for members of the Mt. Washington Valley community since the summer of 2020.
Coming out of the pandemic shut down in 2020, the White Mountain National Forest was hit heavily by the lack of outdoor recreation etiquette shown by the influx of visitors to the Mt. Washington Valley, as well as workforce shortages businesses dealt with - and are still dealing with. The devastating effects this had on the community, both from a financial stand-point and an environmental one called for a sharp call-to-action to start addressing them. This Outdoor Industry Business Expo22 was one way of doing that.
The expo created focal points around three separate panel discussions.
The first one was presented by the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce’s partner in digital media advertising, LocalIQ, and focused on travel trends and statistics pertaining to how information is shared online, which can help businesses develop digital branding messaging. While the online space allows businesses to leverage their audience and grow their business, it’s important that the messaging shared about vacationing to the Mt. Washington Valley is also paired with information on responsible recreation and sustainable tourism.
The second one focused on bridging the gap between hospitality staff and the local outdoor industry, where Jessyca Keeler, SkiNH Executive Director; Tyler Ray, Granite Outdoor Alliance Director; Amanda Peterson, Appalacian Mountain Club Trail Program Operation Manager, and Sara Thompson, Gorham Bike & Ski Store Manager all presented.
The third one focused on outdoor legislation, advocacy and business resources where guest panelists included Scott Crowder, Director of the New Hampshire Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development; David Poole, Legislative Liaison with NH Guides Association; Rita Toth of the Small Business Association; and Randy Ouellette, owner of Swift River Ghillie and a NH Registered Guide.
A morning workshop on producing successful video marketing campaigns and where to place them was hosted by JH Communications, and the staff at AMC Highland Center led a group hike where they shared insight to the terrain and basic survival skills.
April’s After Hours was held at the end of the day in Thayer Hall, right on the Highland Center’s campus, where exhibitors could set-up and network with the local community.
Replacing what used to be the Annual Business Expo, the chamber’s signature spring event, the Outdoor Industry Business Expo22 is a new shift in networking and advocacy for the entity. The chamber is excited to be a part of driving this initiative forward. Response from its members was positive with feedback that reinforced that conversations like the ones touched on by the panels are exactly the type of conversations that need to be had.
Assistant Executive Director, and event organizer, Michelle Cruz shared that her biggest goal for the event was building connections. “A big part of why the chamber hosts these events is to ensure people are networking and being offered the opportunity to learn from one another. I’m so happy that this event could also act as a conduit to introducing resources like Scott Crowder to the general public. Being able to embed him more in the community of the northern part of the state and share that he is a resource for all of our outdoor based businesses is crucial.”
Cruz was also enthused by the event’s location, the AMC Highland Center, saying that it was a treasure to the Mt. Washington Valley, and she was so glad it had the opportunity to shine at the event. “One amazing thing that the Highland Center offers is housing for its seasonal workers. The creativity of the center to offer workforce housing answers a real need to hiring and retaining employees. Unfortunately the center is still plagued by the lack of workforce in general, which just reinforces the need for more workforce recruitment solutions - another initiative the chamber is diving into - but I can’t stress enough how hard working and accommodating the staff was at the Highland Center - even when they were working with a limited crew.”
The Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce would like to thank it’s sponsors, who continue to be a cornerstone of support in all its efforts, and include; Premier Sponsor, Chalmers Insurance Group; Workshop Sponsors, LocalIQ, TD Bank, and Outfront Media; Supporting Sponsors, Northway Bank, Eversource, Mt. Washington Valley Radio Group, Memorial Hospital, New Hampshire SBDC, NH Business Review; and the After Hours Sponsor, Appalachian Mountain Club.
The Outdoor Industry Business Expo22 had huge success in its first year as a new signature event offered by the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. It looks forward to continuing the conversation around how to ethically and sustainably sell outdoor recreation in Mt. Washington Valley in its future projects. Another event to look-out for is the White Mountains Outdoor Health and Wellness Fest, coming up on June 11th. For more information on both of these events, and on the chamber as a whole, visit mwvcc.org, or call Michelle Cruz at 603-356-5701 ext. 302.
Photos ℅ Michelle Cruz of Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce