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Tourism Survey Finds Most Effective Marketing Is Word Of Mouth

AP/Toby Talbot
Visitors line up at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury.

A first ever in-depth survey of visitors to Vermont sheds light on how they make their travel decisions. Visitors to Vermont welcome centers, state parks and local attractions filled out more than 8,500 questionnaires over a two year period.

Researchers say the results present a fairly comprehensive picture of why they decide to come and what they like to do once they arrive.

According to the survey results, the most significant factor in the decision to vacation in Vermont is word of mouth.

Almost two-thirds of the respondents said friends and family influenced the decision to vacation and travel in Vermont.

Lisa Chase with University of Vermont Extension Service and the Vermont Tourism Research Center was one of the survey’s researchers.

“Friends and family were very important,” Chase says. “Almost two-thirds of the respondents said friends and family influenced the decision to vacation and travel in Vermont. While for planning the trip, that’s where website and print media were very important.”

Not surprisingly, sightseeing was listed as the most popular activity of Vermont visitors.

But the survey also provides a level of detail not previously available.

Researcher Bill Valliere  of the tourism research center and the UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources says visitors of all ages also indicated a strong preference for  local foods and beverages.

It’s a sign that people are getting the message about Vermont’s local foods and value-added products.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see just how strong agricultural tourism and food and drink experiences were for people, and that’s across the various sites we talked with people in,” says Valliere. “I think Vermont is uniquely placed for that type of experience.”

Vermont tourism officials say the survey results will help them advertise the state more effectively.  Vermont spends about $2 million annually on tourism marketing.

Department of Tourism and Marketing Commissioner Megan Smith says in her four years on the job there’s been a shift to more digital advertising.

“The lion’s share of it now goes to matching marketing dollars from different regions in the state and most of it is focusing digitally: The online travel agents, Google ads, we have a huge response from ads on Pandora,” says Smith.

Smith says the survey results also provide a baseline of data that can be compared to future visitor questionnaires.

Vermont Tourism and Recreation Survey Summary

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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