A Look Ahead: The future of tourism in the Monadnock Region

  • Skiers and snowboarders enjoy a fresh 3.5 inches of snow at Crotched Mountain in Bennington on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/8/2020 9:24:46 PM

Editor’s note: This is one of severalA Look Ahead 2020stories we are running this week in which we take a look at what 2020 has in store for our coverage area.

The residents of the Monadnock Region know what they’ve got in their home territory, and why they love living in it. The area’s picturesque small towns, cultural opportunities, and nature are all appealing to tourists as well. In the upcoming decade, Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce board affiliates Jamie Trowbridge and Jarvis Coffin would like to see the Monadnock Region improve its investment in tourism. The viability of the area may be at stake, they say.

“We’re sitting on a demographic time bomb. One of the oldest states in the nation is aging out,” Trowbridge said, and if we don’t bring new people into the region, “We’re not gonna have people here … to buy the houses of the people who want to sell them, [or] to make our communities run.”

Trowbridge’s vision is to attract new people to the area so that ten years from now, “this place ... looks like it does right now, and not a lot worse,” he said.

“Tourism is an important part of economic development because you’re really not going to get someone to move their business here, or their family, if they’ve never been here,” Trowbridge said. “When tourists come to a region, they see it, they like it, they consider those other kinds of relationships,” like sending their child to Franklin Pierce University or buying a second home in Harrisville.

“Awareness of the Monadnock Region is very low,” Trowbridge said. “You don’t have to go very far before people don’t know what it is, or how to pronounce it.”

Awareness is an essential first step before a potential visitor can even consider the region or become interested in it, he said.

“This is something that other regions do to market to tourists, families, workers, employers, higher education students. If we don’t do this, all those people are going to go somewhere else,” Trowbridge said.

“What’s a Monadnock,” Jarvis Coffin recalled a rep from the Tesla company asking when his wife, Marsha, asked them to install an electric car charging station at the Hancock Inn.

In response, she asked them to pull out a map.

“There’s a reason this is the oldest inn [in the state]”, she said, pointing it out as the halfway point between the Seacoast and the great interior of New England, as she described the way people travel through the region.

“This is the significance of regional branding,” Jarvis said, it can bring more people to the region and raise the value of what we have to offer.

“We all, who live here, know what makes it great and we want to preserve [that],” Coffin said, but “Monadnock underachieves when it comes to promoting its virtues as a place to come live, work, study, or play, to the outside world. It does not have its message together.”

Trowbridge described a thorough regional branding initiative as “grossly overdue.” He is looking into creating an overarching branding effort for the Monadnock Region through a collaboratively funded, sustainable marketing campaign. Trowbridge is working with twenty people from the Monadnock region “from Hinsdale to Hillsborough” on a task force commissioned by the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re basically getting ready to start talking to businesses and colleges and government sources about contributing funds, and we’ll have to see if we can raise enough money to make an effort,” he said.

The effort would not replace existing efforts, such as Discover Monadnock, and the Monadnock Travel Council.

“A few of us decided a website wasn’t enough,” Trowbridge said, although he credited the Discover Monadnock task force with getting the ball rolling. “We need a real branding campaign and we need real money to push it out.”

Coffin said he sees regional participation as an essential part of a successful campaign to improve tourism opportunities, in order to overcome the resource constraints of individual communities. And said having five chambers of commerce in the Monadnock Region as redundant.

“We just need one,” he said. “There are countless examples where this has already been done successfully.”

Trowbridge cited the branding of the Berkshires in Massachusetts as a comparable campaign involving a rural area with an “exceptionally lively arts scene, bucolic rural landscape, but with some sophistication. The Monadnock Region has a lot of those attributes.”

Coffin believes the Monadnock Region is ready to promote as-is, although he acknowledges that improvements in broadband internet, public transportation, and infrastructure could help make the region more appealing and accessible.

Most of Coffin’s guests at the Hancock Inn come during the summer and fall. He’d like to see more people visiting during the winter.

“They say in August that it’s the quintessential New England experience,” he said, but he explains to guests that they haven’t really experienced the region until they visit in winter. “Come and cocoon,” he said, citing Olympic-caliber cross country skiing at the Dublin School trails, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and opportunities to walk in the woods.

And while the Monadnock Region may never be able to bill itself as a huge downhill ski destination, he said, “countless have learned to ski at Pat’s, Crotched, and  Gran ite Gorge.”

“I think we should reject the idea that there aren’t things to do here in the winter,” he said.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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