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Why fewer tourists aren't hurting Vermont's bottom line - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Why fewer tourists aren't hurting Vermont's bottom line

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STOWE, Vt. -

Edelweiss in Stowe is known for its sky-high New York deli-style sandwiches. The store also sells groceries and wine, items owner Alex Stein says help bring in 450 paying customers during a busy day.

"It's like gold falling from the sky when we get a big snowstorm," Stein said.

Stein estimates tourists account for 85 percent of weekend sales and 40 percent during the week. Add in sales from locals and Stein says the bucks are coming in big time.

"This has been my best year ever," he said. "My January, February, March figures are up 20 percent from previous years, which is phenomenal."

Stein is not alone. Vermont tourism officials say 2011 was a record year when it comes to growth in visitor spending, that includes tourists and residents.

New numbers just released show that in 2011 visitors made about 13.9 million trips to Vermont. That's up from 2009, when there were 13.7 million visits, but still not back to prerecession levels when 14.3 million people visited Vermont.

When it comes to leaving green in the Green Mountains, in 2011 people spent $1.7 billion. That number is up from $1.4 billion in 2009 and even better than prerecession in 2007 when people spent $1.6 billion.

"The number of visitors has grown modestly, but the actual tax revenue has increased substantially in addition to retail spending," said Jen Butson of the Vermont Tourism Department.

Tourism officials say another key number in the study has to do with second homes. Visitors are falling in love with Vermont and buying a part of the state. Twenty percent of all the homes in Vermont are second homes, and those people contribute $125 million in education property taxes each year. And that means more people staying here spending money. But tourism officials say full-time residents are also boosting the bottom line. About a one-third of the visitors in 2011 were from the Green Mountains-- people doing a staycation.

"We've got a lot of instate business and traveling regionally, but we've also seen an increase in Canadian visitors the last few years," Butson said.

Back at the shop, Stein hopes this tourism trend continues.

The study also shows that more than one-third of jobs in Vermont are supported by visitor spending, which is higher than the national average.

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