Tourism Rocks!

NEWPORT CITY – In honor of National Travel and Tourism Week, the Vermont Department of Tourism is holding five press events throughout the week.Each conference showcases the attributes of a community. Yesterday’s event took place at the Gateway Center.Jen Butson, director of communications for Vermont Tourism and Marketing, said the state welcome 13.7 million visitors a year, which amounts to $1.5 billion in revenues and supports 11.5 percent of jobs in the state.President Ronald Regan started National Travel and Tourism Week in 1984 to acknowledge the value and contributions of tourism, culturally and economically. Since then, travel officials across the country have put together events to spread the word.Travel and tourism means a lot to the state, said Steve Cook, Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. He said Vermont tourism supports thousands of jobs every year. Research studies, said Cook, show that tourists come to the state because of the kindness of Vermonters.“Newport is a world class destination,” said Trish Sears, executive director for the Newport City Renaissance Corporation. “We have our international Lake Memphremagog…. We’re very excited about the very richness of our economic development, that includes tourism.”Will Wilquist, Executive Director of the Green Mountain Club, said the organization opened the first section of a new trail across the former Champion Lands in Avery’s Gore last year. Eventually, the section will be part of a 14-mile hike from Route 114 to Island Pond to Unknown Pond, Wilquist said.The club will celebrate its 102 anniversary during its annual meeting at Jay Peak Resort.There are things like cool restaurants on Main Street and funky shops that weren’t here 10 years ago, said J.J. Toland of Jay Peak Resort . He said everyone is aware of the growth at the mountain. “We’ve undertaken this effort to give people compelling reasons to come up here,” he said. “Having them happen in concert is extremely unique.”Within a few years, the biotech center will be open and, soon after that, a hotel on the waterfront, said Toland. He noted the area also has the technical center, agricultural and manufacturing. “It’s very exciting to see all this come together all at once,” he said.Andy Cappello, director of Newport Parks and Recreation, spoke about the city dock, Gardner Memorial Park and Prouty Beach and Campground. “Our motto is we create community through people, parks and programs,” said Cappello. He said the city offers close to 75 programs throughout the year. Some of those programs include the Fourth of July celebrations, free concerts throughout the summer and Aquafest. “One of the biggest things about Newport is the city has these incredible natural resources that are made available to visitors and residents alike.”“Newport is a great place to live,” said Newport City Manager John Ward Jr. “People are nice.” The city has taken care of its infrastructure, has a full-time police department, full-time recreation department, the North Country Hospital and North Country Union High School, Ward said. “If you want a place to raise children that is relatively safe, this is the place” said Ward. “Come to stay, come to visit.”Mayor Paul Monette spoke about the variety of recreational opportunities the region has and the partnership between the city and the Newport City Renaissance Corporation.Gloria Bruce, Executive Director of the Northeast Kingdom Travel and Tourism Association, spoke about the efforts of various groups to make the Northeast Kingdom even better.Newport Zoning Administrator Paul Dreher, who spearheads the Renaissance Corporation's design committee with Jen Black, said they want to be prepared for what’s coming. The committee is working on maps for tourists. The mapping process, said Dreher, is open to the community. The committee will get ideas at different events like at the farmer’s market.The design committee is also working on Complete Streets, which makes the area friendlier to people than cars. Complete Streets would be more amendable to cafes, bicyclists and walkers.Local residents have been a wealth of information, Black said.Phil White, from Vermont’s North Country Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the organization’s new building, which showcases everyone’s efforts. The chamber will launch a new website next month that includes a list of 38 reasons to visit the area.“The chamber has really embraced the recreational tourism part of it,” said White. “If you like outdoors, this is a great place to be. If you don’t like the outdoors, don’t bother. Go someplace else, because this is what it’s really about.”White also spoke about the different competitive events sponsored by Indoor Recreation of Orleans County. White also said it’s an easy drive to Boston, New York and Montreal, but “It’s harder to get to Burlington from here than it is to get to Boston from here,” he said. “The road system brings you up and drops you off.”Lake Memphremagog is becoming a world-class venue for open water swimming, White said.Nick Arcangeli, spoke about the Kingdom Velo Group, an informal organization of bicycle riders, open to all levels. David Smith, from Wright’s Enterprises, spoke about the great hunting and fishing opportunities in the region. Chris McFarland, from Clyde River Recreation, works with area owners of various lodging businesses.“They get people to here to stay, I give them something to do while they’re here and they go to eat at different restaurants,” said McFarland. “It’s a good community effort.”The thing about Vermont, said Gray Stevens, Executive Director of Vermont Outdoor Guide Association, is the close proximity to natural resources and human resources.Ruth Sproull, owner of Little Gnesta Bed and Breakfast, said people like the merchants such as Newport Natural Foods. “It’s places like that make people want to stay and come again,” she said.