Tourism Update

The Chamber’s tourism arm, Visit North Central Massachusetts (VNCM), has developed its annual marketing plan to promote the region. As a result of the pandemic, VNCM plans to strategically shift its marketing resources in FY2021 to focus on helping our regional economy recover quickly and effectively from the disruption. The restaurants, retailers, hoteliers, farms and attractions that comprise our local visitor industry have been among the hardest hit by the disruption caused by this health crisis and will take the longest to recover. Marketing strategies in FY2021 will focus on Shop/Eat/Stay/Explore Local promotional efforts that encourage companies and residents to support local businesses during the recovery.  Marketing efforts will also target the regional drive market within a 250-mile radius, including key markets like Boston, Southern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island highlighting our advantages and safety.  Data and research from our economic development planning process suggests that we are well positioned to potentially benefit from the new environment and changing consumer demands, given our rural character, affordability and agricultural heritage. The plan was approved by the Board of Directors and submitted to the Mass Office of Travel and Tourism as part of our annual tourism grant submission. We also presented it to members during the Summer to gather input. It was well received by both MOTT and our members, however we are still waiting on state tourism funding in the state budget.


As part of this marketing/recovery plan, we focused our efforts in Q1 with updating our website and social media platforms for the “new normal” including developing new locally focused content, developing new messaging, optimizing our site for new searches and utilizing digital and social media channels to promote, connect and engage with consumers. Messaging and themes have been centered around re-opening and supporting our businesses. “When it Matters Most” is being utilized as an overarching theme. It is important that our target audience understands why “spending local” is now more important than ever. Member-focused contests and promotions have also been utilized to drive engagement with messaging focused on the attributes of the region that appeal most to visitors, such as our safety as rural region and abundance of family-oriented activities. As we move into the traditionally busy Fall season and Q2, we plan to ramp up our paid digital advertising to promote the region and local businesses. We plan to focus primarily on digital media for now as it provides the greatest flexibility and allows us to adapt quickly if needed.  As we move into the Spring, we will start to leverage some print advertising. Our media buys will be dependent on the final receipt of our grant funding from the state.


Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis, VNCM’s participation in several travel shows were cancelled including the Discover New England Summit in Maine, the Dream Destinations Showcase in Western Mass, and a major bridal expo in September.  We will resume these business development activities that play an important role in promoting the region to groups once it is safe to do so.


Visit North Central Massachusetts Participating in SkiMass Collaboration


Visit North Central Massachusetts is proud to participate in a #SkiMass collaboration in partnership with the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, The Massachusetts Ski Resort Association, The Berkshires and Franklin County. This is in an effort to bring more ski and snowboarding travelers to North Central Massachusetts and support our partners at Wachusett Mountain Ski Area.

A mix of targeted digital media on Facebook and Instagram platforms are set in place to target key markets in Greater Boston, New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut.


For more information on North Central Massachusetts, please go to: 

Fall Guide to North Central Massachusetts Out Now!

Get the inside scoop on all things fall season in North Central Massachusetts – from the best time to harvest apples to a craft beer trail! Find the latest edition at the Johnny Appleseed Center or any other local venue and attraction in North Central Massachusetts! For more information on the Guide To North Central Massachusetts, how to advertise, or how to get one delivered to you, please contact Diane Burnette | DBurnette@ ◊

View the latest edition here!

New Chamber Tourism Website Fall Launch

Stay tuned! The Chamber’s tourism affiliate, Visit North Central Massachusetts will be launching a dynamic new tourism website this fall. The new website will have a fresh new look and feature a number of enhancements to help better promote members and North Central Massachusetts. This is part of our efforts around continuous improvements to strengthen our communications, member services and operations.

Chamber offers new experiential networking program

In September 2018, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber introduced an additional networking program for members called Experience North Central. This addition styled like a Business After Hours  offers attendees yet another social networking opportunity with the inclusion of an experience at one of our many gems within the community.

The first Experience North Central featured a cider donut and fudge making lesson at the nationally renowned Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, a 100 year old destination for all things fall. In October, we featured local beer manufacturer, Moon Hill Brewing, in celebration of Manufacturing Month. Both were said to be “the best networking experience ever” by several attendees.

If you’re sick of the same old networking and also looking to learn behind the scenes secrets of local businesses, then Experience North Central is for you! Our next event will be held in January 2018. Have an idea for an Experience? Contact Events & Programs Manager, Maria McCaffrey, at 978.353.7600 ext. 235 or

Tourism Sales Mission

The Johnny Appleseed Trail Association, the tourism arm of the chamber, participated in the New England Society of Association Executives, NESAE, 2018 Annual Management Conference where we had a table promoting our meeting venues to association executives from all over New England. In attendance were over 100 association executives and destinations looking to do business. Members who were promoting North Central Massachusetts alongside us were Great Wolf Lodge New England and the Devens Common Center.

This is an example of the many ongoing efforts of JATA to promote the region to visitors and groups in key markets. Ultimately these efforts help generate additional visitors and additional dollars to the communities in our region. In 2016, our collective regional tourism marketing strategy resulted in $131 million economic impact for North Central Massachusetts.


Tourism Industry Continues to Thrive in North Central

By, Suzanne Farias Chair of the Board Johnny Appleseed Trail Association

As the third largest industry in Massachusetts, it’s no doubt that tourism has a major impact on the economy.  In North Central Massachusetts, tourism has had a profound economic impact – and throughout the last year, tourism related revenue has continued to grow.

Tourism can be looked at in many different lights: family vacations, sports and recreation, corporate travel, group tours– all things we actively see here in North Central. These travelers spend money at gas stations, restaurants, shops and stay overnight at our local hotels. Local room tax revenue is a valuable resource for municipalities. Over the last few years, North Central Massachusetts has seen tremendous growth in room tax revenue – validating that North Central Massachusetts is growing as a popular destination.

Communities use the room tax revenue to help fund parts of their budget, as well as re-investing those dollars in tourism marketing. The Johnny Appleseed Trail Association – an affiliate of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce – is a state recognized regional tourism council. Through investments by business owners, regional attractions and local and state government, the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association works to aggressively promote and market North Central Massachusetts as a tourism destination.

The addition of Great Wolf Lodge has been a boon to Fitchburg. The hotel, water park and conference spaces are an asset to Fitchburg’s growth and economic development. With that hotel online, room tax revenue spiked for Fitchburg in fiscal year 2015 to $937,000. That growth continued in fiscal year 2016, with an 8% increase bringing revenue to over one million dollars. Fitchburg continues to lead the region’s tourism economy with the help of Great Wolf.

In Leominster, room tax revenue growth is more aggressive than ever before. By maintaining a competitive environment for lodging and conference space, Leominster saw an unprecedented 27.5% growth in tourism revenue for fiscal year 2016. Gardner has also seen steady growth in their room tax revenue – climbing 12.4% over the previous year.

The tourism industry is not only alive and well in North Central Massachusetts – it’s thriving. In order to continue that growth, we need to continue to work regionally and collaboratively to promote North Central Massachusetts, continue investments in tourism marketing, and maintain competitive tax rates that attract travelers of all kind.

 Suzanne Farias is the general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Leominster and serves as the Chair of the Board for the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association.

Reserve Your Spot in the Official Guide to North Central Massachusetts

An ad in the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Guide is the best marketing decision you will make all year. This publication is the only one reaching visitors and long-time community members on a year-round basis. The publication is distributed at over 350 locations across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Canada. Work is underway now for the Spring edition. Contact Diane Burnette via email at or call 978-534-2829 to reserve your spot today. Space is limited.


Wachusett Mountain kicked off their Fall festival season with four of their biggest festivals, Farm Fresh Fest, Kidsfest, BBQfest and Applefest. We were able to exhibit at three of the major events, Kidsfest, BBQfest and Applefest in these past few weeks. While attendees spent their weekends enjoying the sights, sounds, beauty and pageantry of these events, we were able to tap into those joyous feelings and passed on wealth of information on the regional attractions that are featured in North Central Mass.  All three festivals were the perfect way for families to spend quality time together all while supporting our local small business vendors and learning about the region’s ideal areas to visit with their families.

The 26th Annual Kidsfest was the getaway that all kids dream about. It was two full days of music, food, and family fun. Live shows, walk-around entertainment, magic shows, clowns, and Mount Wachusett’s scenic summit SkyRide were at the epicenter of this eventful weekend. Parents got to enjoy great food and product sampling by our local small business vendors.

The 7th Annual BBQfest featured some of the area’s best BBQ vendors. Highlights of this year’s event include the Oysterfest, which featured oysters on the half shell, clam chowder and shrimp, along with an oyster shucking competition. The People’s Choice Awards featured Chili on Saturday and Pulled Pork on Sunday. Then the ever-famous Farmers’ Market and Craft Fair (including more than 75 vendors), and Beer Tent were present throughout the weekend.  Dozens of small business vendors were in attendance and gained great notoriety from the public.

The 33rd Annual Applefest, one of the region’s most popular festivals, featured over 75 Craft Fair & Farmers’ Market Booths, family entertainment, scenic foliage skyrides to the Summit, mountainside barbecue, pony rides, clowns, wall climbing, jugglers and magicians for the kids. Applefest also featured an Oktoberfest Celebration complete with authentic German cuisine, a multitude of tasty beers in the Beer Garden and live music and entertainment.

Hundreds of families living outside our region are now looking forward to what North Central has to offer from here on out. Attendees left these weekend events, happy, tired, full and in many cases excited to seek out new places of adventure and fun here in North Central Massachusetts.