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Agencies Working To Lure Global Travelers To New England

Jim Levulis

Massachusetts and regional tourism agencies are working on ways to attract more visitors from overseas.

While Governor Deval Patrick’s administration has been traveling around the world hoping to increase the state’s trade and business opportunities internationally, at home the commonwealth is trying to show what it has to offer to those on the other side of the globe. Sue Norrington-Davies is the director of Discover New England, an agency that markets the region’s six states internationally under the New England name. She says her agency recommends a New England loop for European travelers; arriving in Boston, heading north through New Hampshire into Maine, then west to Vermont and finishing with a sweep south catching western Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and back to Boston. She says international travelers typically spend two to three weeks in country, renting a car and doing a wide range of activities.

“They do a day of soft adventure, a day of going to museums and then I have to tell you that shopping is massive,” Norrington-Davies said. “The exchange rate is so good. It’s so much cheaper here and so they will definitely spend at least one or two days shopping.”

In 2012, international visitors spent more than $2 billion in Massachusetts, with the commonwealth ranking fifth among the country’s mainland states in overseas visitation. The state’s Office of Travel and Tourism operates marketing websites in countries like Germany, Ireland, Japan and France. The agency’s executive director Betsy Wall says one year after Boston’s Logan Airport starting offering direct non-stop flights to Tokyo, the number of Japanese visitors increased by 43 percent. She adds with 100 million new Chinese travelers expected in the next few years, that’s the next target.

“Chinese visitors in particular who are coming to the United States are looking to see something new,” Wall said. “They are traveling for the first time outside of Asia in many cases. So they are looking for something that’s uniquely American and that is one of a kind.”

Wall says 30 percent of international travelers use social media as inspiration to travel and therefore states will spend $800 million combined on marketing their attractions this year. Norrington-Davies says international visitors are a reliable market because they book almost 100 days in advance, they come during non-peak American travel times and rarely give up their vacation time.

“Most visitors coming to New England, if they’re doing fly-drive, are really interested in staying in the country inns and having that level of service that the New England innkeepers can provide,” Norrington-Davies said. “Your typical, white-clabbered, beautiful Victorian inn, that’s what people are really looking for.”

In 2012, international travelers spent more than $35 million in the Berkshires alone. Lauri Klefos is the president of the 650-member Berkshire Visitors Bureau. Drawing visitors from Boston and New York City, Klefos says tourism revenues have gone up roughly five percent each year leading to increasing interest from hotel developers looking to expand the area’s available 4,500 rooms.

“International visitors know New England, they know Massachusetts and then they know Boston,” Klefos said. “So we’ve started in the last two years to work with Boston as well as with the Cape. We have a great campaign that we’re doing that says ‘Visit the best of Massachusetts from the beaches to Boston to the Berkshires’ and it’s been really sticking.”

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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