Irene's impact on tourism in Vermont - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Irene's impact on tourism in Vermont

Stowe, Vermont - August 31, 2011

Tourist towns across Vermont were slammed by Tropical Storm Irene. In Wilmington, Stratton, Killington, Woodstock and Quechee, major devastation is leading to lost revenue from guests who are canceling their visits or simply can't make it.

"The biggest concern is that the state is basically shut down," said Stephen Vazzano of Three Bears at the Mountain, a bed and breakfast in Stowe.

But as bad as the scene is in some communities, others made it through the storm without major problems. At the Lantern Inn in Stowe, owner George Lewis is trying to convince people he's open for business.

"I tell people our damage was one sunflower blew over, that was it. And I restaked it and my storm damage was basically done," Lewis said.

The team at the Three Bears at the Mountain Inn is faced with a similar challenge. Nearly a dozen reservations from across the country have already been canceled by guests who think all of Vermont is impossible to reach.

"Tourism dollars trickle down to everybody in the whole state, but particularly in this area, people come for lodging, they're shopping, they're eating, they're doing everything," Vazzano said.

Vermont's Chamber of Commerce is using a new Facebook page to help businesses that depend on tourists communicate with their customers about what's closed, what's open and how you can get there.

"We reached out to them on Monday and said tell us how you are doing. Are you open? Are you flooded? What should visitors know? So we have reached out to them to sort of populate that information," said Betsy Bishop, the president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

Hundreds of people have already visited the page. Bishop is dedicating a full-time staffer to the project. She says it's helping her team answer questions in real time.

"The real message is that many businesses are still open for business and that tourists are still welcome and that people should continue with their vacation plans, but we are balancing that with the notion that there are some businesses that clearly have been affected by flooding," Bishop said.

Bishop says it will take a long time to figure out how badly Vermont's tourism community will suffer where roads are wiped out and a mess remains. But these innkeepers stress with foliage season on its way, welcome mats are out across the state.

"Please believe us, we are not making it up that roads are open, they are accessible," Lewis said.

And whether it's in Stowe or elsewhere they want guests to make their reservations.

"Everyone in town essentially relies on those tourism dollars," Vazzano said.

The chamber's Facebook page is constantly being updated with information on hotels, restaurants and tourist spots across the state. So far, nearly 600 people have liked it. If you want to add information or have a question about a place you visit, you can do that on the page. Click here for the chamber's Facebook page.

Keith McGilvery - WCAX News

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