How businesses fared during Vermont’s summer tourism season

Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 5:21 PM EDT
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WAITSFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) - Visitors to Vermont headed home on a soggy Labor Day, putting a cap on the holiday weekend and the state’s summer tourism season.

“It’s kind of like a hidden gem but not really anymore, everyone has discovered Vermont,” said Deb Fischer of Franklin, Massachusetts.

The summer of 2022 coming to an unofficial close.

“There’s been a lot of pent-up demand, people want to get out and they’re doing that,” said Eric Friedman of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Business leaders in the Mad River Valley say, anecdotally, it’s been a strong summer and that the pandemic shifted how people vacation.

“When they’re booking, how they’re booking and where they’re going out to eat: it’s changed a little bit and I think our business community has adapted to it,” Friedman said.

Up Route 100 in Waterbury, the crossroads of Vermont, PK Coffee Manager Mike Place says they have been busy all summer but at times had to reduce hours because of staffing.

He says they’ve been toeing the line between staying fully staffed and providing meals with local products.

“But at the exact same time we have to account for the cost of everything going up and up and up,” Place said.

Statewide, staffing remains a challenge. According to the Vermont Department of Labor, July marked 15 consecutive months of having more than 20,000 open jobs.

“You walk into a place and it takes a little bit longer to get a beer or a glass of wine or a piece of pizza,” said Trent Powell of Medfield, Massachusetts.

Up in Stowe, local officials say the start of the summer was gangbusters. Local overall bookings have exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 7%.

“Overall tourism is very strong, especially at the start of the summer, we saw lots of visitors in town. We are seeing a demand for travel despite inflation and rising gas prices,” said Sharon Harper of Stowe.

Some thought gas prices and inflation would subdue travel. But back in Waitsfield, visitors say they’re undeterred and that the trip to the Green Mountain State is worth it.

“We’re not going to not come here because gas is expensive,” Fischer said.

As another Vermont summer comes to a close, businesses and communities along Route 100 now shift their attention to the upcoming fall foliage season and whether visitation will bound back to pre-pandemic levels.