Rainstorm aside, July 4th holiday strong for tourism

By Marti Mayne

7-6-17 North Conway shoppers 3North Conway Village was bustling with visitors throughout the extended Fourth of July weekend. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)CONWAY — Despite Mother Nature’s attempt to ambush the key July 4th weekend, Mt Washington Valley tourism-related businesses reported increases over last year in traffic, sales and bookings.

After the storm, glorious weather highlighted the region, and it was all topped off with festive Independence Day parades on both ends of the Valley with music and fireworks in between.

Greg Fisher, vice president of marketing for Peak Resorts, told the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, “The fact you can make it to two parades on opposite ends of the valley and then meet in the middle for live music and fun is fantastic. It’s what makes this region great.”

Janice Crawford, Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director, said: “Fourth of July festivities filled Schouler Park and the west-facing sidewalks of the village from Grove Street to Kearsarge. Cars were parked all the way to Muddy Moose on 16 and North/South Road from Kearsarge to Artists Falls with the rail yard packed and all other available parking lots full. Demand from crowds was so high, non-profit vendors actually sold out of food and drink by 8 p.m.”

In an informal survey of Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce members, businesses throughout the valley reported strong sales, particularly at the attractions.

Bob Tupper of White Lake Speedway in Tamworth said they did lose one day to rain, yet despite that, July 4th weekend business was still up over last year for the fun center. Tupper gave kudos to his great staff for a job well done over the long weekend.

At the Conway Scenic Railroad, the storms played havoc with phones and computers, but didn’t seem to impact ridership, according to Susan Logan, director of marketing.

“Passenger counts were up over last year for all four days, and there were more international visitors, especially South Asians. We even had some Australians here on Sunday,” she said. And ridership on the Conway Scenic Railroad’s “Firecracker Express” from Conway to Schouler Park for the July 4th festivities, was up 35 percent over last year.

Rebecca Metcalf, Mt. Washington Cog Railway marketing director, said the Saturday storms did not impact the train ride at all. In fact, Cog Railway owner Wayne Presby noted: “The railway has experienced an increase in 2017 over 2016 on the first three days of July of almost 50 percent. We credit this increase to a few factors; increased capacity with additional trains and an extended schedule, as well as streamlining our customer service to create a smoother experience. We expect this trend to continue throughout the season.”

Fisher of Peak Resorts said the storms hurt both Wildcat Mountain and Attitash Mountain Resort’s business Saturday. But, he said, “Overall, it was and continues to be a great start to the month of July at our resorts.”

Bud Selmi, owner of Margarita Grill in Glen, said that 4.5 inches of rain in less than two hours definitely hurt the restaurant’s business Saturday, resulting in sales being down by 25 percent for the day on Saturday and 12 percent on Sunday.

Yet Monday was up by 26 percent, helping to pull out a decent weekend, according to Selmi.

Lodging properties that responded to the survey were enthusiastic about the weekend.

Jennifer Kovach, who describes herself as the Snowvillage Inn chief bottle washer, hostess and negotiator, said the inn and restaurant were up over last year by about 20 percent. In fact, the storm resulted in additional bookings from those at campgrounds looking for shelter.

Charlie Mallar, co-owner of the 1785 Inn, shared it was the busiest July 4th weekend for the inn. “We were sold out Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and were busy on Tuesday, too.”

Mallar said domestic visitors were way up, but international visitors were off due to what he calls the “Trump effect.”

Campgrounds took the brunt of the storm, with varying impacts depending upon their location, but all are fully functioning now.

Marilyn O’Boyle from Beach Camping Area along the Saco River in Conway, said they lost business on Saturday and Sunday due to the storm, but the campground is back up and running.

Representatives from Danforth Bay Camping and RV Resort, Woodland Acres Campground, Glen Ellis Family Campground, and Saco River Camping Area all concurred that the campgrounds are up and running.

Marianne Leberman, recreation and wilderness program leader at the White Mountain National Forest, said all the camping sites, day use picnic areas and swimming holes are now open in the National Forest after Saturday’s storm.

Shoppers were both in the village and at Settlers Green’s outlets. Laura Tuveson, assistant director of marketing for Settlers Green and Settlers Crossing, reported that 85 percent of their stores saw shoppers from the Canadian market and 70 percent reported shoppers from the Boston market. To learn more about planning a vacation in the valley, visit www.mtwashingtonvalley.org or call (800) 367-3364.

Marti Mayne is public relations director for the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.