Hotels and resorts await travelers with open arms. Last year, many Americans skipped their vacations for obvious reasons. But now, in 2021, destinations across the country are hoping for a rebound in tourism.
This may be a year in which we see less intercontinental travel and much more regional activity. Airlines likely will continue to offer strong bargains, but people probably will be more willing to experience a change of scenery not so far from home. The Northeast has plenty of incredible tourist attractions. The White Mountains draw nature enthusiasts and hikers, Cape Cod has phenomenal beaches and seafood, and Vermont touts numerous retreats and incredible craft beer. If this indeed is a year with more emphasis on “local vacationing,” how exactly will tourism shift?
Areas like Cape Cod offer Merrimack Valley dwellers with simple travel plans numerous options this year. Last year, many businesses on the Cape were closed until mid-June, but when things eventually opened up, tourism was surprisingly strong.
Cape Codder Melody Edson owns the Inn at the Oaks in Eastham. Despite last season’s delayed start, she was amazed by the number of travelers who visited the Cape amid the global pandemic. “Our guests last year were amazing,” Edson says. “We were fully booked after we were allowed to reopen on June 8.” Edson credits the cleanliness of the inn as part of the reason visitors feel comfortable. “The cleaning protocols that businesses have to follow were not much of a stretch for us at the inn,” she says. “Our industry prioritizes cleanliness already, so it was easy to follow state guidelines.”
Edson is expecting an even stronger season this year, one in which the staff can celebrate its longstanding history. “Last year was the inn’s 150th anniversary, but we couldn’t celebrate it in the fashion we wanted to. This year, we already have received calls for bookings this summer. We are expecting an even better year, hopefully one where we can celebrate with our guests.”
Another benefit of “local vacationing” is the support it provides to small businesses. It’s no secret that many small businesses and restaurants suffered in 2020. By staying local, we can help boost the regional economy.
Karen McPhillips and Spencer Kirk-Jackson own Salt & Sand Studios, a yoga and glassblowing establishment in Warren, Vermont. Before the pandemic they welcomed guests from all over, but once COVID-19 arrived they were forced to reevaluate their business model. “Our primary concern is health and safety for ourselves and our guests,” McPhillips says. “We were able to shift gears … to involve more outdoor offerings. Our outdoor yoga classes were a huge hit, and we shifted towards glass-fusing classes, which you have to wear a mask for anyways.” According to McPhillips and Kirk-Jackson, their adjustments included long-term changes that would benefit their business beyond the pandemic, such as adding a small glassblowing furnace in a private studio space.
These changes, however, did not remedy their inability to operate the Airbnb loft space. “We are planning on adding a contactless check-in and check-out system so we can begin offering overnight stays again,” Kirk-Jackson says. “We may require vaccination cards to ensure safety for everyone, but for now it seems like the day classes are a big hit with the local population or people who stay in Warren, Vermont, part time.” Overall, Kirk-Jackson and McPhillips have seen a more engaged local population interested in exploring the offerings of Salt & Sand Studios.
If you are thinking about traveling locally or abroad, Edson offers this advice: “My suggestion to folks is if you want to travel, get your plans in place now and put in your reservations earlier. That way, you control your plans and don’t have to scramble around last minute.”
The past year has presented challenges for sure, but as we move forward, we might be looking at a perfect opportunity to explore our local gems. Places like Salt & Sand Studios and the Inn at the Oaks are opening their doors differently this season and are ready to take on 2021. What are you waiting for?
Inn At the Oaks
Salt & Sand Studios