Discussing 2022’s Coming Challenges and Opportunities at the 37th Annual Vermont Tourism Summit (Part Two), with Nicole Mahoney

Episode 259

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For this second episode in a special two-part series of Destination on the Left episodes, my team visited the Vermont Tourism Summit (without me!) to interview attendees about their experiences working in the travel and tourism industry, especially during the outbreak of and our gradual emergence from the global pandemic. The Vermont Tourism Summit draws one of the largest gatherings of tourism professionals in the state including owners, managers, and employees of the many businesses connected to this important segment of the economy. This year’s Summit was the 37th annual event and was held from November 17-18 at the Killington Grand Resort Hotel in Killington, VT.

I’m delighted to share the insights and experiences that the Vermont Tourism Summit attendees my team spoke with were willing to offer during their interviews. In this second episode of a special two-part Destination On The Left series, you’ll hear from these eight extraordinary travel and tourism leaders and experts:

Discussing Challenges and Opportunities at the Vermont Tourism Summit

The Vermont Tourism Summit is an annual event that brings together area travel and tourism professionals, businesses, and destinations. This year’s event offered a one-of-a-kind opportunity to discuss the many challenges and opportunities Vermont area destinations are navigating in this uniquely challenging time. My team traveled to the Vermont Tourism Summit for this year’s gathering and were able to speak with eight incredible experts and business leader attendees, and here are the inspiring insights they had to share.

Julie Basol from Vergennes Partnership

Julie shares how Vergennes is the ideal destination for anyone who loves the outdoors, and she shares how her goal for 2022 is keeping the small city, its residents, and visitors safe as life begins to move back toward normal. She highlights some of the charming, family-friendly area destinations and attractions that make Vergennes an ideal place for people to visit or relocate to, and she explains why staying positive in this transition period is critical.

Kim Jackson from Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports

Kim shares why inclusion is foremost in her mind as we close out the year and enter 2022. In her role at Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, inclusion is critical to their mission. Kim explains why serving people with all sorts of physical and cognitive disabilities. She discusses how the programs Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports offers are designed to make it possible for anyone to enjoy the beautiful mountains and winter activities. She describes the kind of marketing her organization does to get the word out.

Lisa Chase from University of Vermont Extension

Lisa explains why she is so excited to be hosting the upcoming 2022 International Workshop on Agritourism being held in Burlington, VT from August 30-September 1, 2022. She shares how she got started at UVM twenty years ago, and she shares how she first became aware of the term “agritourism”. She discusses how Vermont is one of the true agritourism capitols of the world. She shares how she saw a call for proposals to present at the first World Congress on Agritourism in Italy in 2018, and what she learned from the concert. She describes how Vermont won the right to host the 2020 conference but had to postpone when the pandemic started, and she discusses how the 2022 International Workshop on Agritourism is the culmination of all the hard work and false starts.

Parker Riehle from Get On Snow

Parker shares how is organization was founded two years ago to promote outdoor winter recreation. He describes how Get On Snow isn’t just focused on bringing skiers and snowboarders to slopes but how the organization also highlights any winter sports people enjoy, including “gateway sports” such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. He describes how the outbreak of the global pandemic increased people’s desire to get out and enjoy nature even more than before. He shares how optimism and excitement are the prevailing feelings as people begin to become more comfortable with travel again.

Peter MacLaren from West Hill Bed & Breakfast

Peter shares how Vermont has led the way in vaccinations, and he shares how that commitment to public health has made it easier for destinations such as his West hill Bed & Breakfast to offer safer environments for travelers. He also describes how Vermont’s reputation for being one of the safest destinations has brought new people to Vermont who might never have discovered its wonders otherwise. He shares how he believes these newcomers will help offset visitor loss as long-distance travel begins to become more prevalent. He shares how the new presence of big-name organizations from the ski industry is creating even more opportunities for the state and local businesses like his.

Rick Sokoloff and Marina Meerburg from 4 Points VT

Rick and Marina share how 4 Points VT started as a mountain biking school before integrating brewery tours, and Rick talks about how a key collaborative partnership with the Trapp Family Lodge has become core to the mountain biking experience 4 Points VT offers. The pair discuss adding a third arm to their business, adding customized artisan tours for corporate groups and others. Marina explains how they’ve even begun requesting family reunions and foliage tours, and she describes how easing pandemic restrictions have helped their business grow dramatically in recent months. Rick and Marina share plans for keeping the pace of their growth while maintaining the high quality they’re known for, and they discuss their strategy for continuing to grow to the point that they can be ready to take on full-time employees. Marina describes the personnel challenges the organization has faced in filling roles to keep up with the work, and Rick shares how great training leads to happy return workers season after season.

Sarah Howe from Lake Morey Resort

Sarah describes her excitement for 2022 and the many new opportunities it is presenting for her resort. She talks about resuming paused programs and starting new ones to attract visitors. Sarah talks about expanding the outdoor activities her resort can offer for visitors and the local community, throughout the year. She explains how collaborating with local businesses and organizations has helped make both her business and the entire area stronger, and she shares how Lake Morey Resort reaches out to area businesses for partnership opportunities.

Sarah Morris from Basin Harbor

Sarah talks about how Basin Harbor, established in 1886, will be celebrating its 136th birthday in 2022. She discusses some of the challenges her organization has faced through the pandemic, including staffing shortages, and she talks about some of the exciting opportunities she is looking forward to in the coming year. She shares how Basin Harbor has experienced robust demand throughout 2021 that the organization is using to expand their offerings and renovate their facilities. She shares how her property’s staff swells from just 25 employees in the winter to over 200+ through the summer season, and she shares how bringing in international workers will be instrumental in Basin Harbor’s continued recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.

Enthusiasm for a New Beginning

As each of these Vermont area travel and tourism leaders discussed, there’s an abiding sense of optimism for 2022 as life continues to move beyond the pandemic. Through key collaborations with area partners and through developing a better understanding of travelers’ safety needs and entertainment expectations, these organizations are each positioning themselves for a stellar new year!

I hope you enjoyed this second episode of our special two-part series from the Vermont Tourism Summit. I hope the positivity and optimism these leaders have shared with us inspire you as we wrap up 2021 and turn the page for a bright new year! The pandemic has been hard for anyone in the travel and tourism industry, but the lessons we’ve learned and strategies we have developed will help us roar into the coming year!

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