Vermont towns hope for post-flood tourism boost during fall foliage season

Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 5:46 AM EDT
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CABOT, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s tourism sector is sending out a clear message that the state is open for business this fall foliage season. After July’s flooding, some are saying bouncing back this autumn has never been more important.

Nestled on the Winooski River, Cabot is a small town with a big spirit drowned out by July’s flooding.

On Cabot’s main drag, the only gas pumps are still broken, town employees just moved back into the flooded building, and businesses like Harry’s Hardware and Den are completely gutted open in the back.

“It’s been a rough summer. Flood aside, it’s just been raining and hard. I am excited to have tourists back. I love finding people discover this place,” said Johanna Thibault from Harry’s Hardware.

Visitors discovering Vermont is the life raft that the state’s tourism sector is looking for this fall, and commissioner Heather Pelham says it’s more important than ever after a historically soggy summer.

Anecdotally, she says there are estimates from businesses that visitor traffic and spending are down around 10% to 15%, a crucial number considering the tourism sector employs 10% of the state’s workforce.

“Whenever there is a drop in either traffic or visitor spending, whether it be the weather or just folks hearing about the flooding and that there were some closures, it impacts the state,” said Pelham.

Vermont welcomes 13 million tourists in a typical year, but now, Pelham says there’s talk that Vermont is not ready for visitors, and that’s causing concern.

In response, the state invested in an ad blitz with 400 billboards throughout the greater Boston and New York City areas.

The billboards were already budgeted for later in the year, but the state decided to expedite the process after the floods.

Pelham says foliage season accounts for around 20% of our visitor spending, noting a lot of bookings were thankfully made months before the flooding anyway.

Back in Cabot, they’re ready for the leaves to turn and for the pulse to pick back up. Cabot is expanding their fall foliage and culture festival on Saturday in town.

The state says they’re still looking for more data on credit card spending and rooms and meals tax to come in on how the summer fared.