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.