This past week, the Vermont Council on World Affairs and the International Visitor Leadership Program hosted a group of people from all over the world. The multi-regional project on Tourism and Economic development came to Vermont to learn about how our state promotes a large multi-seasonal tourism industry. With us we had Mr. Ahmed Farid Essarhane, the director of the Bab El Djazair Travel Agency in Algeria, Ms. Azra Dzigal, a ministry advisor for the Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Ms. Kadri Jalonen, a tourism coordinator for the Ida-Viru County Government of Estonia, Ms. Evangelia Zampetoglou, the education manager of the Institute of the Greek Tourism Association, Mr. Raoul Chollet Rochin, a Federal delegate for the Fondo Nacional de Fomento al Turismo National Tourism Foundation of Mexico, Ms. Dragana Cenic, the general director for spatial planning for the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro, Mrs. Maria Cheggour, a professor of Tourism Studies, English Language and Communication at Cadi Ayad University in Marrakech, Morocco, and lasly Mr. Ilia Nikolaevich Markov, the ECO of the Ural Cultural Center in Russia.
The group started the trip off with a drive down to Woodstock, Vermont. Regarded as the gateway to Vermont’s rural heritage, Woodstock features one of the finest operating dairy farms in America and a museum of Vermont's rural past. Billings Farm features many aspects of farm work, including care of the Jersey cows and other livestock, milking of the herd, crop rotation, and feed production. The group took a tour of Billings Farm and Museum and met with Director David Simmons to discuss the museum's role in showcasing Vermont rural heritage.
Afterwards, the group went to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Vermont’s only National Park Unit. The park was gifted to the American people by Mary and Laurance Rockefeller in 1992 and plays an important role in the tourism sector of the Upper Valley region of Vermont. It has formed a unique partnership with the town of Woodstock and the nearby Billings Farm and Museum. The group took a walking tour of the park with Assistant Superintendent Christina Marts and discussed the park’s role in promoting tourism, their partnership with Billings Farm and Museum, and the effects of both entities on tourism in Woodstock and in Vermont’s Upper Valley.
The group then had lunch and a Round Table Discussion with staff from Billings Farm and Museum, Marsh Billings Rockefeller NHP, Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, and other area nonprofits involved in the tourism industry.
The group departed from Woodstock and headed up north to Montpelier, where they met with Deputy Commissioner Steven cook of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. The VDTM promotes Vermont’s travel, recreation, cultural, and historic attractions, as well as the state’s goods and services. They work in coordination with public and private sector partners to market the state to a global audience for the economic benefit of all Vermonters. The group had an interesting conversation with Cook about how the different seasons effect tourism in Vermont, and learned that August was the most popular month for tourism. The group also got to see the VDTM's twitter page called @ThisisVT, which is unique because each week, Cook chooses a new Vermonter to run the twitter page and promote Vermont life and culture.
On Tuesday, the group started the morning off going to the University of Vermont to meet with Director of the Vermont Tourism and Research Center, Lisa Chase and Research Specialist Bill Valliere. The center began as a partnership between the University of Vermont and the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. Today it collaborates with educational institutions, government agencies, local communities, non-profit organizations, and private sector businesses across the country. Lisa Chase was in her office in Brattleboro, so Bill set up a skype call so the group could talk about ecotourism and agritourism in Vermont and discuss relevant research projects.
The group then spent the afternoon down in Killington, Vermont. Killington is the largest and most visited ski area in the Eastern United States and has the largest vertical drop in New England. Killington draws visitors year round to ski, mountain bike, and golf. In 2015, the resort received a permit from the state allowing them to add zip lines and a mountain coaster. The group met with Director of Operations Rich McCoy, who discussed strategies to attract guests to the resort and best practices for promoting Killington in a saturated ski market.
The group had a fantastic time traveling around Vermont to some of the most popular tourism destinations. Thank you to everyone who took part and made this possible for our International Visitors!