CONWAY — After a rainy spring resulted in a slow start to the tourism season, July and August’s ideal weather contributed to a strong summer for local businesses, according to an informal survey of members from the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.
While not officially the end of summer, Labor Day signals a change of seasons in the area.
The Labor Day weekend started out strong for all, but Monday's rain had a negative impact on all outdoor-oriented businesses.
But overall, business was up over last summer by double digits for many who reported numbers.
“Weather always has the largest impact on tourism in the valley,” said Janice Crawford, the chamber's executive director. “Even the forecast for rain will be enough to sway tourists from coming. This summer was no exception.
"It was too bad rain dampened the Labor Day weekend for outdoor-oriented businesses, but for indoor attractions and retailers, the rain was a bonus," Crawford said.
"Another positive element we heard from members when talking about the summer was the growth in guests from new markets plus a return of Canadian shoppers over the summer. We’re delighted to hear the valley’s marketing reach continues to grow,” finished Crawford.
Among attractions responding to the chamber’s survey, Jonathan Rivers of Indian Mound Golf Club & River’s Edge Grille & Tavern told the chamber that the course and the restaurant experienced a great summer after a tough start. Rivers attributed a big part of the business’s gain this summer to the restaurant’s year-round breakfast, lunch and dinner food and beverage sales.
Becca Deschenes, Cranmore Mountain Resort's marketing director, said the resort had an overall 13 percent increase this summer over last year.
“We had a very strong week leading into the holiday weekend, significantly ahead of last year,” she said. “Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend were strong and ahead of last year. Monday’s rain put a damper on the weekend, and we did not open, so overall Cranmore finished behind last year’s three-day weekend,” she added.
However, with the strong July and August numbers, the resort finished well ahead of last year for the summer.
Bob, White Lake Speedway owner/operator, said July was disappointing mostly due to weather reports for both weekends, which turned out far better than portrayed. But “August made up for July, it was a very strong month for the business, and Labor Day was even better,” he told the chamber.
“The last two weeks in August (including Sept. 1) were the busiest weeks we've seen in years," he said, adding that his year-round laser and new indoor games have helped to weatherproof the Speedway.
Lauren Hawkins, drector of marketing at Story Land, told the chamber, “Summer went well for Story Land! Consistently good weather made for steady visitation to the park. Labor Day weekend was very strong and comparable to last year.
"We are hopeful for great fall weather to keep the momentum going!” she added, as the popular theme park will remain open weekends through Columbus Day.
Susan Logan, marketing manager at Conway Scenic Railroad, echoed the positive sentiment. “We were up about 14 percent over Labor Day 2018, and overall for the summer, we were up about 5 percent,” said Logan.
“Overwhelmingly, our visitors were from the U.S. with Massachusetts and New Hampshire close to tying for the top referring states, and New York, Maine and Rhode Island, in that order, completing our top five. Internationally, Canadians made up about 3 percent of our summer business, followed by the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and Italy.”
Lisa Spadaccini, owner of It’s My Girlfriend’s Consignment Boutique, told the chamber the summer was “crazy busy," adding that the store’s sales are up overall for 2019 over 2018.
“Weather is a huge factor on business. If weather isn’t great, they shop!” she added. “Foliage is always a busy time for us and I hope it will be another great season for people visiting and buying.”
At Settlers Green, the outlets and restaurants had a strong Labor Day weekend, with many stores offering deep discounts for back-to-school shoppers, said Laura Lemieux, marketing director.
“As always, weather had a positive impact on our traffic over the weekend. Many stores have reported (throughout the summer) the jump in Canadian shoppers, roughly 20 to 25 percent more," she added.
Ken, from Priscilla’s Country Kitchen, said summer 2019 was up over last year, even after the first three weeks of July were sporadic.
Kyla Brustin, owner of Pinkham Vacation Rentals, said this summer was up by 18 percent over 2018.
“For us, that was partially due to having more homes available to rent to guests. Some of our homes had more rentals, some were even,” she said.
Jen Kovach from the Snowvillage Inn told the chamber the weekend was filled with wedding bliss after a destination wedding booked for the Labor Day holiday.
To plan an upcoming fall foliage getaway, go to mtwashingtonvalley.org or call (800) 367-3364 (800-DO-SEE-NH) to talk with a vacation planner.
Marti Mayne is the public relations director for the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.