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SweetMeets

The meeting and convention business brings welcome cash to the state

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

It’s easy sometimes for those of us who live here to forget just how attractive the state of Vermont is to those not as lucky as we are. Sure, we grouse about taxes and complain when it’s too hot, too cold, too wet and too dry. But to the rest of the world, and even to us when we take a moment to think about it, Vermont is, indeed — to quote a former state tourism motto — a special place.

photoChamplain Valley Exposition

To a degree, the Vermont Convention Bureau can measure how special Vermont is by counting the number of room nights it books for meeting and convention attendees. 

The Destination Marketing Association International, with which our convention bureau is affiliated through membership, estimates that convention attendees spend about $277 a day, and the average stay is 31/2 nights, says Tim Shea, vice president of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, which houses the convention bureau. 

“What I always find interesting about that number,” says Shea, “is that only 48 percent of that $277 is spent on lodging. The balance is spent on food and beverage, retail, entertainment, rental cars; and what that number does not include is any transportation to and from the destination.

photoThree Stallion Inn

It’s often perceived that hotels or inns are the only ones that benefit from meetings and conventions, Shea adds, and these numbers indicate that the entire region or state feels the impact.

Now, here’s the really interesting thing. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2005, the convention bureau booked just over 39,000 room nights, its strongest year ever as far as number of rooms booked. If we take that 39,000 times the per-day expenditure, we get $10.8 million. 

It’s a conservative amount, says Shea, because those 39,000 rooms are just the ones booked by the convention bureau. “A lot of the hotels will be contacted directly,” he says, “and they’re not reflected in our numbers.”

The average size group the bureau books is probably 75 people, Shea says. “You know, a medical training group, 60 people at The Inn at Essex, 75 people down at the Equinox.”

photophotoECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain

A big reason the hotels and resorts are so eager for this business is that it’s not weather-dependent. “When you get into weather season — winter, late fall, when leisure guests might not come — these events will take place regardless of the weather.” 

Increasingly, leisure travelers book their vacations with very short lead times, and if the weather turns bad, they don’t come, says Shea. “I was speaking to somebody at one of the ski resorts who was saying just that: When you have an off season like we did this last winter, it’s the group business that really helped them.”

To promote this business, the Convention Bureau has an office at the chamber, a salesperson who works out of a Rutland office and a salesperson in Boston. They spend a good portion of their time on the phone contacting meeting planners and associations. They also go to a number of trade shows around the country. 

The Convention Bureau works closely with the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, which Shea says has been a tremendous resource. “Commissioner Bruce Hyde and the leadership he provides is incredible,” he says.

The Convention Bureau recently returned from a sales mission to Washington, D.C., where they worked with Sen. Pat Leahy to host an event for 400 invited guests — travel writers, journalists, meeting planners, some food distributors from the D.C. area, and some of Sen. Leahy’s colleagues in Washington. “We brought down Vermont food producers, and 10 or 12 hotels and resorts went down with us,” Shea says. “The Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing was there, Lt. Gov. Dubie was there, it was a neat, neat event to raise awareness of Vermont.”

photoSheraton Burlington Hotel & Conference Center

It’s true that there’s a kind of meeting place for just about any taste and pocketbook in our state, from large to small, elegant to rustic, with mountain vistas or lakeside views, in golf-course casual or urban chic. 

The list of meeting spaces in this magazine might spur the creative juices, because if every Vermonter who belongs to an organization were to invite that group to hold its next regional or national meeting here, it’s possible the influx of those dollars could help keep taxes down, giving us one less thing to be grumpy about. •

Meeting-Planners’ Guide

This meeting planners’ guide was created with the help of the Vermont Convention Bureau. The VCB is in the process of updating its information, so be sure to contact any property for additional details.

Property/City Meeting Rooms Largest Banquet Largest Classroom Phones Web Address
Arlington
West Mountain Inn 3 30 80 375-6516 www.westmountaininn.com
Barre
Barre Civic Center 8 1600 952 476-0257 www.barrecity.org
Bolton Valley
Bolton Valley Resort 8 250 400 434-3444 • (877) 8BOLTON www.boltonvalley.com
Brattleboro
Hampton Inn & Suites 5 180 225 254-5700 • (866) 218-STAY www.hamptoninnbrattleboro.com
Quality Inn & Suites 4 180 225 254-8701 • (866) 254-8701
Burlington/South Burlington
Anchorage Inn 2 25 n/a 863-7000 • (800) 336-1869 www.vtanchorageinn.com
Best Western, Windjammer Inn & Conference Center 4 65 80 863-1125 • (800) 371-1125 www.windjammerrestaurant.com/
Champlain College n/a n/a 500 651-5957 • (866) 872-3603 www.champlain.edu/eventcenter
DoubleTree Hotel 8 225 300 660-7552 www.burlington.doubletree.com
Comfort Inn Burlington 1 15 n/a 865-3400
ECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain 4 75 200 864-1848 www.echovermont.org
Flynn Center for the Performing Arts 4 70 100 652-4500 www.flynncenter.org
Hawthorn Suites Hotel 1 12 n/a 860-1212 • (866) 337-1616 www.hawthornsuitesburlington.com
Holiday Inn-Burlington 5 150 200 863-6363 • (800) 799-6363 www.hiburlington.com
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites 2 50 64 860-1112 • (866) 762-7870 www.hiexpress.com
Howard Johnson Hotel & Suites 1 40 50 860-6000 • (800) 874-1554 www.innvermont.com
Lake Champlain Cruises 1 n/a 150 864-9669 www.lakechamplaincruises.com
Lang House on Main Street 1 12 20 652-2500 • (877) 919-9799 www.langhouse.com
Sheraton Burlington Hotel & Conference Center 14 700 1000 865-6620 • (800) 866-6117 www.starwoodhotels.com
Smart Suites 1 40 40 860-9900 • (877) 862-6800 www.innvermont.com
Spirit of Ethan Allen III 3 400 350 862-8300 www.soea.com
University of Vermont 12 n/a n/a 656-5665 www.uvm.edu/~conf
University Inn and Suites 1 30 30 863-5541 • (800) 808-4656 www.innvermont.com
Vermont National Country Club 2 150 n/a 264-9406 www.vnccgolf.com
Wyndham Burlington Hotel 15 400 500 658-6500 • (800) 658-6504 www.wyndhamburlington.com
Chester 
The Inn at Cranberry Farm 2 40 40 463-1339 • (800) 854-2208 www.cranberryfarminn.com
Colchester 
Fairfield Inn by Marriott-Burlington 1 12 15 655-1400 www.fairfieldinn.com
Hampton Inn & Conference Center 6 240 300 655-6177 • (800) 426-7866 www.hamptoninnburlington.com
St. Michael’s College 8 2500 n/a 654-2615 www.smcvt.edu/conferences
Danby 
Silas Griffith Inn 5 35 35 293-5567 • (800) 545-1509 www.silasgriffith.com
Essex/Essex Junction 
Champlain Valley Exposition 9 400 2000 878-5545 www.cvfair.com
The Inn at Essex 10 200 225 878-1100 • (800) 727-4295 www.vtculinaryresort.com
Fairlee 
Lake Morey Resort 16 600 475 333-4311 • (800) 423-1211 www.lakemoreyresort.com
Grand Isle 
Grand Isle Lake House 3 80 80 865-2522 www.grandislelakehouse.com
Jay 
Jay Peak Resort 8 400 350 988-2611 • (800) 451-4449 www.jaypeakresort.com
Killington 
Birch Ridge Inn 2 50 35 422-4293 • (800) 435-8566 www.birchridge.com
Cortina Inn and Resort 4 150 220 773-3331 • (800) 451-6109 www.cortinainn.com
The Inn of the Six Mountains 4 100 120 422-4302 www.sixmountains.com
Killington Grand Resort Hotel & Conference Center 20 500 700 422-6973 • (888) 644-7263 www.killington.com
Mountain Inn at Killington 2 110 100 422-3595 • (888) 422-3595 www.mtinn.com
Ludlow 
Okemo Mountain Resort’s Jackson Gore Inn 8 500 380 228-1835 • (800) 78-OKEMO www.okemo.com
Manchester 
The Equinox Resort 10 219 300 362-4700 • (800) 362-4740 www.equinoxresort.com
Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home n/a n/a n/a 362-1788 www.hildene.org
Riley Rink at Hunter Park 3 1800 110 362-0150 • (866) 866-2086 www.rileyrink.com
Mendon 
Red Clover Inn 5 60 55 775-2290 • (800) 752-0571 www.redcloverinn.com
Montpelier 
Capitol Plaza 8 120 300 223-5252 • (800) 274-5252 www.capitolplaza.com
North Hero 
The North Hero House 2 60 80 372-4732 • (888) 525-3644 www.northherohouse.com
Plymouth 
Bear Creek Mountain Club 3 100 100 672-4242 www.bearcreekclub.com
Poultney 
Green Mountain College 25 75 400 287-8260 www.greenmtn.edu
Randolph 
Three Stallion Inn n/a n/a 60 728-5575 • (800) 425-5575 www.3stallioninn.com
Rutland 
Ramada Limited 1 40 20 773-3361 • (888) 818-3297 www.ramadarutland.com/home
St. Albans 
Comfort Inn & Suites-St. Albans 3 100 85 524-3300
Shelburne 
Heart of the Village Inn 1 30 12 985-2800 • (877) 808-1834 www.heartofthevillage.com
The Inn at Shelburne Farms 1 n/a 20 985-8498 www.shelburnefarms.org
Shelburne Museum 3 70 100 985-3348, x3389 www.shelburnemuseum.org
Shelburne Travelodge 1 75 50 985-8037 www.travelodge.com
Smugglers Notch 
Smugglers’ Notch Resort 12 250 325 644-8851 • (800) 521-0536 www.smuggs.com
Stowe 
Green Mountain Inn 3 40 100 253-7301 • (800) 253-7302 www.greenmountaininn.com
Stoweflake Resort & Conference Center 14 295 400 253-7355 • (800) 253-2232 www.meetingsatstoweflake.com
Stowe Mountain Resort 11 100 150 253-3558 • (800) 253-4754 www.stowe.com
Topnotch at Stowe Resort & Spa 6 125 300 253-6413 • (800) 451-8686 www.topnotchresort.com
Trapp Family Lodge 4 80 80 253-8511 • (800) 826-7000 www.trappfamily.com
Stratton Mountain 
Stratton Mountain Resort 12 250 300 297-2500 (877) 887-3767 www.stratton.com
Vergennes 
Basin Harbor Club 8 130 300 475-2311 • (888) 339-8074 www.basinharbor.com
Warren 
Sugarbush Inn & Conference Center 6 135 200 583-6132 • (800) 53-SUGAR www.sugarbush.com
Waterbury/Waterbury Center 
Best Western, Waterbury-Stowe 2 80 70 244-7822 • (800) 621-7822 www.bestwesternwaterburystowe.com
West Dover 
Grand Summit Resort Hotel & Conference Center at Mount Snow 9 525 600 464-1100 • (800) 261-9422 www.mountsnow.com
White River Junction 
Howard Johnson Inn 3 220 180 295-3000 • (800) 648-6754
Williston 
Residence Inn by Marriott 1 25 25 878-2001 www.marriott.com/residence-inn/travel.mi
Woodstock 
Woodstock Inn & Resort 8 150 225 457-6632 • (800) 448-7900 www.woodstockinn.com
Compiled with the help of the Vermont Convention Bureau.