Portsmouth tourism summit studies attracting more visitors

Union Leader Correspondent
February 22. 2018 8:12PM
Sarah Moore, left, director of operations at Take Flight in Kittery, Maine, and Barbara Newton, who is on the board of directors for The Players' Ring Theatre in Portsmouth, listened to other business representatives during the annual tourism summit on Tuesday in Portsmouth. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

PORTSMOUTH — During the Destination Portsmouth Annual Tourism Summit this week, representatives of local businesses discussed successes and addressed common complaints.

Valerie Rochon, president of the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth, said a local biannual Restaurant Week draws a number of people into the city. Some 76,000 people came out for Restaurant Week in the fall of 2017. A total of 45 restaurants participated.

“The restaurants call it 10 days of Saturday nights,” Rochon said at the Tuesday forum.

Rochon said they estimate 67 percent of the people who take advantage of the meal deals are from New Hampshire, but the event draws a number of people from Kittery and South Berwick, Maine, as well as Newburyport, Mass.

The New Hampshire Travel Council said more than 39 million travelers visit the Granite State each year, generating $5.5 billion in spending.

To direct some of that cash to Portsmouth, Rochon said they have participated in trade shows to draw people from New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. They have seen a 4 percent increase in visitors from New York and Connecticut.

Rochon said about 25 percent of tourists who visit the city are from other countries, with most coming from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada.

During a workshop on overcoming objections and addressing common complaints, participants broke into groups and discussed what they observe and how they communicate with their customers.

Parking was the most highly discussed issue, with costs and available public spaces being the biggest concerns.

Elizabeth Potter, who represented the RIDE to End Alzheimer’s, said parking problems are all a matter of perspective.

She said parking in Portsmouth is much easier than in bigger cities like Boston.

“Even though it’s not vast parking, it’s still not $50 for two hours,” Potter said.

Participants suggested that the chamber add a walking distance guide to their maps so people can see how quickly they can get from one side of downtown to the other.

Some of the students from Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth offered their perspectives.

They said venues that host live bands should use a hashtag they can easily search on social media so they know where to head at night.

The needs of families with young children were also addressed. Karen Provazza, director of marketing for Seacoast Science Center in Rye, said parents typically don’t ask about going out to eat in downtown Portsmouth after their visit.

“Parents with a carload of children, they usually want something on their way out of town,” Provazza said.

The Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce operates a year-round visitor information center at 500 Market St. and a seasonal kiosk in Market Square. The chamber offers guides and maps on its website, www.goportsmouthnh.com.

The 2018 Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be held May 14 and 15 at the Courtyard Marriott in Concord.


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