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Meets & Potatoes

Promoting our state to tourists and meeting planners helps keep Vermont’s economy well fed

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

Sheraton Burlington HotelSheraton Burlington Hotel & Conference Center

The next time you encounter a visitor to our fine state — a leaf peeper, maybe, driving 15 miles an hour, or a driver who brakes at three driveways before finally finding the right turn, or someone keeping the bank teller’s line from inching forward by asking directions to somewhere — and silently curse, remember this: Visitor spending supports an estimated 36,250 jobs for Vermonters and adds $196.4 million in tax and fee revenues to state coffers in the general, education and transportation funds.

Any way you cut it, it’s not chopped liver. Direct spending by visitors for goods and services totaled $1.57 billion in 2005, according to the Benchmark Study of the Economic Impact of Visitor Expenditures on the Vermont Economy published by the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing in November 2006.

Lodging, food and beverage sales, and shopping brought in the lion’s share — 67 percent — of that $1.57 billion, and, the report tells us, Vermont’s retail and dining sectors are two to three times more dependent on visitor spending than the national average. More reason to encourage tourism.

Champlain College Conference And Event CenterChamplain College Conference And Event Center

Which is what the Department of Tourism and Marketing does. It promotes the Vermont brand in the key drive/fly markets of New York City, Albany, Boston and Springfield, Mass., and secondary markets such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Montreal, says Erica Houskeeper, director of communications.

The rest of the world is not discounted, however. Commissioner Bruce Hyde returned last month from a Discover New England sales mission in Germany, says Houskeeper. “Other sales missions in the last year were in the U.K., Quebec, Ireland, Japan and Ontario.

“We’re also capitalizing on a significant new trend taking place in which more and more Vermonters are discovering that the best tourism and recreation is in their back yard,” she says.

Working closely with the Department of Tourism and Marketing, the Vermont Convention Bureau helps keep the numbers up by promoting the state to meeting planners. Bureau officials often join state personnel on sales missions. To track the economic impact of its efforts, the bureau counts the number of room nights it books for meeting and convention attendees.

Last year, we asked Tim Shea, vice president of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, which houses the convention bureau, how the numbers add up. He told us the Destination Marketing Association International, with which the convention bureau is affiliated through membership, estimates that convention attendees spend about $277 a day, and the average stay is three and a half nights.

“What I always find interesting about that number,” said 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.”

Stowe Mountain Lodge

It’s often perceived that hotels or inns are the only ones that benefit from meetings and conventions, Shea added, 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, Shea told us, because 39,000 reflects only the rooms booked by the convention bureau. “A lot of the hotels will be contacted directly, and they’re not reflected in our numbers.”

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

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.”

Basin Harbor Club and ResortBasin Harbor Club And Resort

Speaking of weather, Houskeeper reports that the Vermont rooms and meals tax receipts for the month of March 2007 were up 8.5 percent over last year, “an indication that the combination of second-half snowfalls and pent-up demand for winter recreation may have propelled the season to a strong ending.”

Increasingly, leisure travelers book their vacations with very short lead times, and if the weather turns bad, they don’t come, said Shea, who noted that’s when ski resort managers really appreciate group business.

To promote this business, the Convention Bureau has an office at the chamber, staffed by Dave Hakins, executive director, and Annie Lunn, sales manager; 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 department of tourism and marketing has been an invaluable resource, Shea said. “Commissioner Bruce Hyde and the leadership he provides is incredible.”

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.

Check the list of meeting spaces in this issue to spur your 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 Planning Guide

This meeting planners’ guide was created with the help of the Vermont Convention Bureau. Be sure to contact any property for additional details. Many restaurants also offer separate space for meetings. Note: Vermont’s area code is 802.

Property/City Meeting Rooms Largest Banquet Largest Classroom Phones Web Address
Arlington
The Arlington Inn 4 120 80 375-6532 (800) 443-9442 www.arlingtoninn.com
West Mountain Inn 3 30 80 375-6516 www.westmountaininn.com
Barre
Barre Civic Center 8 1600 952 476-0257
Bolton Valley
Bolton Valley Resort 15 200 300 434-3444 (877) 8BOLTON www.boltonvalley.com
Brattleboro
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
Champlain College 14 270 480 651-5957 (866) 872-3603
DoubleTree Hotel Burlington 8 225 300 658-0250 (800) 222-8733 www.burlington.doubletree.com
Comfort Inn & Suites 1 30 30 863-5541 (888) 4CHOICE www.innvermont.com
Comfort Suites Hotel & Suites 2 50 64 860-1112 (866) 762-7870 www.innvermont.com
Courtyard by Marriott Burlington Harbor 3 80 110 864-4700 www.marriott.com/btvdt
ECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain 4 82 242 864-1848, x124 (877) ECHOFUN www.echovermont.org
Ethan Allen Motel n/a n/a n/a 863-4573 (866) 756-6835 www.ethanallenhotel.com
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
Hilton Burlington Hotel 15 400 500 658-6500 (800) 658-6504 www.hilton.com
Holiday Inn-Burlington 5 150 100 863-6363 (800) 799-6363 www.innvermont.com
Lake Champlain Cruises 1 n/a 150 864-9669 www.lakechamplaincruises.com
La Quinta Inn & Suites 1 15 n/a 865-3400 www.lq.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.sheraton.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 30 400 512 656-5665 www.uvm.edu/conferences
Vermont National Country Club 2 150 n/a 264-9406 www.vnccgolf.com
Willard Street Inn n/a n/a n/a 651-8710 (800) 577-8712 www.willardstreetinn.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 & Event Center 6 225 275 655-6177 (800) 426-7866 www.hamptoninnburlington.com
Motel 6--Burlington n/a n/a n/a 654-6860 (800) 4MOTEL6 www.motel6.com
St. Michael’s College 8 2500 n/a 654-2615 www.smcvt.edu/conferences
Vermont Maple Inn 1 15 12 655-1400
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
Grafton
The Old Tavern at Grafton 6 30 50 843-2231 (800) 843-1801 www.old-tavern.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) 451-6108 www.cortinainn.com
The Inn of the Six Mountains 4 100 125 422-4302 www.sixmountains.com
Killington Grand Resort Hotel & Conference Center 20 400 600 422-6973 (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 okemo.com
Lyndonville
The Wildflower Inn 4 50 64 626-8310 (800) 627-8310 www.wildflowerinn.com
Manchester
The Equinox Resort 10 250 300 362-4700 (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 3000 750 362-0150 (866) 866-2086 www.rileyrink.com
Marlboro
Marlboro College Technology Center 6 n/a 50 (802) 258-9200 www.marlboro.edu
Mendon
Red Clover Inn 5 60 55 775-2290 (800) 752-0571 www.redcloverinn.com
Montpelier
Capitol Plaza Hotel & Conference Center 8 120 300 223-5252 (800) 274-5252 www.capitolplaza.com
Vermont Association of Realtors n/a 35 n/a 229-0513 (877) 229-0523 www.vtrealtor.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
Quechee
The Quechee Club 3 100 200 299-2104 www.quecheeclub.com
Randolph
Three Stallion Inn n/a n/a 60 728-5575 (800) 425-5575 www.3stallioninn.com
Rutland
Best Western Inn & Suites 4 120 80 773-3200 (800) 828-3334
Hampton Inn--Rutland/ Killington 2 55 35 773-9066 (866) 387-9066 www.rutlandhampton.com
Holiday Inn Rutland/Killington 7 300 350 775-1911 (800) 462-4810
Ramada Limited 1 40 20 773-3361 www.ramadarutland.com/home
St. Albans
Comfort Inn & Suites-St. Albans 3 100 85 524-3300
La Quinta Inn & Suites 3 100 85 524-3300 www.lq.com
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
Travelodge Shelburne/ Burlington 1 75 50 985-8037 www.travelodgevt.com
Smugglers Notch
Smugglers Notch Resort 12 250 300 644-8851 (800) 521-0536 www.smuggs.com
Stowe
Green Mountain Inn 3 40 100 253-7301 (800) 253-7302 www.greenmountaininn.com
Hob Knob Inn and Restaurant 2 40 60 253-8549 (800) 245-8540 www.hobknobinn.com
Stoweflake Resort & Conference Center 14 295 400 253-7355 (800) 253-2232 www.meetingsatstoweflake.com
Stowe Mountain Lodge 9 380 450 253-3560 www.stowemountainlodge.com
Stowe Mountain Resort 7 125 150 253-3558 (800) 253-4754 www.stowe.com
Stowe (continued)
Topnotch 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 -- Intrawest 27 250 300 297-6535 (800) STRATTON www.stratton.com
Vergennes
Basin Harbor Club 8 130 300 475-2311 (888) 339-8074 www.basinharbor.com
Waitsfield
The Round Barn Farm 2 100 200 496-2276 www.theroundbarn.com
Warren
Sugarbush Inn & Conference Center 8 200 250 (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) 261-9442 www.mountsnow.com
White River Junction
Howard Johnson Inn 3 220 180 295-3000 (800) 648-6754
Williston
Courtyard by Marriott-- Taft Corners 1 30 50 879-0100 www.burlingtoncourtyard.com
Fairfield Inn by Marriott/ Williston n/a n/a n/a 879-8999 www.marriott.com/btvfb
Residence Inn by Marriott 1 25 25 878-2001 www.residenceinn.com/btvbu
Town Place Suites by Marriott n/a n/a n/a 872-5900 www.marriott.com/btvts
Woodstock
Woodstock Inn & Resort 8 150 225 457-6632 (800) 448-7900 www.woodstockinn.com
Created with the help of the Vermont Convention Bureau