OpEd: Fall foliage is worth millions to the Vermont economy
From mid-September to mid-October, Vermont's Green Mountains transform into a vibrant landscape of gold, red, yellow and orange. It's the ultimate fall foliage destination with over one million visitors traveling to Vermont in the month of October alone to capture memories while enjoying Vermont specialty products and attractions with mountain vistas, picturesque lakes, classic New England villages and countryside ablaze with color.
While Vermont tourism is thriving and our brand is strong, visitor impacts go beyond lifetime memories and Instagrammable moments; last year, visitors contributed $391 million to the state's coffers in tax revenue (Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development).
With hundreds of tourism businesses included in our statewide membership, the Vermont Chamber works to fully fund the marketing effort that promotes Vermont as a tourist destination. The Vermont economy depends on a healthy tourism industry, and the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing (VDTM) is the steward of the Vermont brand that drives that industry.
Their work ensures that we maintain our share of visitors to Vermont during all four seasons in an ever-increasing global market. For this work to continue, Vermont needs to increase the promotional funding appropriated to VDTM.
Vermont is within a day's drive of 80 million people. VDTM and the Vermont Chamber have formed a strong public/private partnership to support the tourism industry; VDTM lures the visitor to Vermont and the Vermont Chamber connects Vermont businesses to visitors with digital and print resources.
The cornerstones of the collaborative marketing efforts include content on VermontVacation.com (1.7 million visitors) and the Official Vermont Vacation Guides (300,000 distributed that are distributed throughout New England and the U.S., Canada, and Europe).
As a significant economic driver for the State, the tourism industry is the heartbeat of the Vermont brand. Together, the two statewide entities market Vermont's most relevant, compelling, and differentiated experiences.
Promotional funding connects visitors to local, family businesses: the small inns and classic bed & breakfasts, outdoor recreation, world-class beer, Vermont specialty products, country stores and iconic main streets.
With proper support of the tourism industry via increased promotional funds from the State, we will continue to grow this market to benefit all Vermonters.
While funding for VDTM has remained flat for almost 10 years, other New England states have bolstered their tourism marketing efforts with additional funds. The tourism industry remains essential to Vermont's economic success and level funding will not protect and grow Vermont's share of visitors.
Without increased investment in destination marketing, we put the annual $2.8 billion in total tourism economic activity (Vermont Tourism 2017 Benchmark Report) and the over 30,000 jobs supported by the tourism industry at risk. In addition to direct spending, the tourism sector has residual positive impacts on other business sectors such as real estate, professional services, healthcare, education and manufacturing.
In order to maintain and increase our market share, we cannot lose sight of staying economically competitive. The destination marketing VDTM deploys is critical to drawing visitors to Vermont to spend money with our hoteliers, cultural institutions, craft beverage producers, chefs and retail outlets, which is critical to support a healthy state economy.
It is time to work together as Vermonters to increase spending on destination marketing efforts through VDTM as an investment in a Vermont economy.
Amy Spear is the vice president of tourism for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce which partners with the state in digital and print marketing to encourage more visits to Vermont.
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