By Stephen Seitz
WOODSTOCK—There are smiles all around the business community for the summer tourist season this year.
Beth Finlayson, director of the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce, said she was seeing a banner year. “Things are going really well,” she said. “A new restaurant, Ruth’s, has opened, and another restaurant has changed hands.”
Finlayson said the rise in tourist traffic could be attributed to a number of factors, including a strong marketing campaign by the state. “The state of Vermont has done a push to get people to the state,” she said, “particularly from the Boston area. They have a user-friendly interactive events calendar at their website.”
Locally, Finlayson said the Woodstock Inn had been particularly promoting its wedding and conference businesses, which “has people visiting the town during the week,” she said.
Woodstock joined a number of other Vermont towns in adopting a 1 percent local options tax on rooms, meals and alcohol. Finlayson said the new tax hasn’t caused a ripple.
“Not one person has spoken to me about it,” Finlayson said. “Some of the smaller B&Bs were concerned at first. But when I buy a sandwich, I don’t notice it. The Economic Development Commission is planning how to spend the money.”
The tax, adopted by the town in March, took effect on July 1 this year. The town’s Economic Development Commission estimated that it will bring in about $150,000, most of which will be spent to promote the town and to support community-wide events.
Betsy Luce, who owns Sugarbush Farms, also said business is up. “Tourism is somewhat better than last year,” she said, attributing one factor to “weddings in the area.” She noted, “Sometimes people will stay for a couple of days after the wedding.”
Luce said one event in particular helped: Open Farm Week, held earlier in the month. “That was sort of like Open Maple Weekend,” she said. “People came in order to have the farm experience.”
David Simmons, museum vice president at the Billings Farm and Museum, also said they were having a very good year. “We opened our season in April with the baby animal program, and since then attendance has been very high,” he said. “It’s hard to know what’s behind it. What we have to offer resonates with the public. We have outdoor experiences, farm animals, and a history of the land in Woodstock. We have something for a lot of folks.”
Simmons said the museum added new children’s programs this year.
“At the end of last year, a national magazine voted us the number one family attraction in the state of Vermont,” he said. “We can offer a multi-generational venue with a strong hands-on component which really adds to the experience.”
Also new: the farm has started selling cheese made with milk from the Billings herd.
“It’s made for us by Grafton Village Cheese,” he said. “We offer a sweet cheddar and a butter cheddar, all from our Jersey herd.”