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Robust summer season boosts local tourist businesses

September 01, 2010
WHITEFIELD — "We have been fortunate to experience tremendous growth this year," said general manager Chris Diego of the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield. "Revenue has exceeded last year by 43 percent and exceeded the best year on record by 23 percent. This has translated into our ability to expand our work force, providing more year-round positions with benefits.

"The reason for the increase is due to a growing number of return guests and a resurgence of corporate business. In addition, efforts like the NH Grand — Grand Resorts: Grand Adventure — and cooperative promotions with local partners like Santa's Village, Six Gun City, and Cannon Mountain have enhanced Cos County as a vacation destination."

Revenues are also up at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel. "We have been having a Great Summer!" said hotel spokesman Craig Clemmer. "I compared last June, July and August gross revenues to date on Aug. 26 to come up with a summer increase percentage," he explained. "I also compared July Year-To-Date (but could not include August because we were not posting daily tallies in August 2009) and came up with a YTD comparison of gross revenues. Both showed an approximately 20 percent increase.

There were five weddings booked over the last two weekends, and families with young children who belong to Omni's loyalty program are experiencing the delights of a White Mountains holiday, Mr. Clemmer said.

Ridership at the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour at the Bretton Woods Ski Area has increased by 42 over the same time period, and a two-day weekend record was set recently. The Tour attracts both in-house guests, as well as people from the Mount Washington Valley, Mr. Clemmer said.

The parking lots at Santa's Village have been packed with vehicles nearly every day this summer.

"Our season has been very good!" said Bruce Hicks, chief spokesman for the family-owned Christmas-themed amusement park. "July was about 10 percent above last year, but then, in 2009 it rained most days for almost the entire month." August is also doing well, although the tally has not yet been completed, Mr. Hicks explained.

"We have seen increased attendance from the local area — Cos County and the Northeast Kingdom — for the first time in several years, he said. "I have to believe that our Ho Ho H2O water park feature is responsible for much of the increase.

"Canadian attendance has also been very strong, probably due to the currency value. Our year-to-date Canadian traffic is up roughly 15 percent.

"Our biggest increase has come from Eastern Massachusetts, however. As part of the branding project, the Mountain View Grand and Santa's Village did some cooperative advertising in the Boston market. By combining our resources we were able to put more money to work and reach a greater number of households. Our commercials on both TV and radio led with 'Experience New Hampshire's Grand Resorts and Grand Adventures, like Santa's Village in Jefferson... and stay nearby at the Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa....'"

Despite some rumors to the contrary, Mr. Hicks said that July's hot and humid weather had not affected the health of Santa's reindeer.

"This has been a good year for the newborn calves. Usually we will lose a calf or two to pneumonia in the spring, but the warmer, dryer weather was good for them, and we have three healthy calves," he said. "We have not lost any reindeer this year other than a stillborn calf."

Some Village visitors think that the reindeer are in distress when they see them breathe rapidly, Mr. Hicks explained. But, in fact, breathing is the only way they have to cool off.

"We do have cooling fans in the pens and in the barn but the animals don't like them," he said.

Smaller establishments also had a good summer.

Revenues were up at the Barron Brook Inn in Whitefield and more guests stayed overnight. "The weather made a big difference," explained co-owner-operator Beth Cape. "And we're finding our niche." Architects and electronics experts who are in the area working with clients, the Civil Air Patrol, a 12-and-under softball team from Massachusetts, were among those who sought them out, looking for a place that is more upscale than a standard motel but less costly than one of the Grand Hotels, Ms. Cape said. "We buy our linens at Garnet Hill," she noted.

Some guests have engaged Dina Dube of the No Thyme to Cook Catering & Personal Chef in Littleton, and this has extended their potential clientele to include reunions and other family events. Once they finish reroofing the Inn, she and her husband plan to put up a pavilion as a function facility, extending their offerings to include weddings.

"According to Trip Advisor, we're the number one B & B out of the five that are located in Whitefield," Ms. Cape said, noting that they have collected very favorable reviews."

"We've put up a life-size moose — 'Murray' — in our parking lot and we feature him on our Facebook page."

Jack's Dairy Bar and Snack Shop on the corner of Routes 116 and 3 in downtown Whitefield has experienced an increase in business, explained Thom Richardson of Whitefield, who occasionally lends a hand to his owner-operator wife Joanne.

The weather has been the biggest factor in greater sales, he said. "When the sun's out people want to eat outdoors and to have an ice cream cone," Mr. Richardson explained. "We've run some specials, such as this month's hamburger with fries and a soft drink, all for $5, tax included. Meal specials have had a positive effect," he explained, "somewhat offsetting the caution people are feeling because of country's economic downturn." Although the 2009-20010 winter was not as busy as usual, Mr. Hallquist of the Four Seasons Motor Inn said that this summer has been very good, making for a great year so far. "We have 500 repeats that come all year round — five to 10 times a year — and that really helps," he said. "In essence, they are our extended family, some of whom have three generations who come to the White Mountains. We have a good time with them. We have been here since 1984, after all. We love it and the area," Mr. Hallquist said. He added that his wife, Robin, a family physician, always says, "We live in a post card!"

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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