Vermont Business Magazine The Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce will unveil the new regional visitors guide on Thursday, April 27th in two locations. The area guide, a staple of the Chamber’s tourism efforts, is updated yearly and distributed throughout the Northeast as a way to showcase the region’s various tourist attractions. This year, as the Chamber announced its 2020 Vision to become a fully regional chamber, the visitors guide took on a new mission as well.
“This is our first real, tangible effort as a Chamber to come alongside the entire region, from Manchester and the mountains to Bennington and the valleys, and demonstrate our 2020 vision of regionalizing,” states executive director of the Chamber, Matt Harrington. “Along with our traditional Bennington base of businesses and attractions we have also worked to incorporate a large amount of Manchester and the Northshire in this piece as well. We took a bold move and have renamed the visitors guide, which was originally the ‘Bennington, Vermont Area Guide’ to ‘The Shires of Vermont Visitors Guide: Serving Bennington to Manchester.’”
The visitors guide is 104 pages (up from 68 pages last year) and highlights the members of the Chamber, which currently number 350. The piece is filled with vibrant photos of the area, directories of businesses and attractions, and has a full Shires of Vermont fold out map in the middle and magazine-like narratives throughout the piece focusing on various elements of the Shires. The guide provides tourists with destinations in the region that include shopping, dining, services, lodging and activities throughout the year.
The process to make the yearly guide started in early November with design and creative coming together to work on both the cover and the content layout. Additionally, the Chamber works with its members to provide listing information and for advertising opportunities throughout the guide. Area events, economic outlook and activities are also included.
“The obvious hurdle for us was to expand our membership quite rapidly into the Manchester area so we could have the Northshire region in the guide,” Harrington states. “After our annual dinner and 2020 announcement, we quickly assembled a team which included The Shires of Vermont Regional Marketing Organization, Route 7 Social, Spectrum Design and other key people and began to approach various Manchester and the mountains businesses to see if they’d like to join our Chamber and the guide. The response was warm and encouraging. The businesses up there are much like our businesses in Bennington; they’re just looking for a way to survive and bring that Vermont charm with their product and services to the area visitors.”
Currently, the Bennington Area Chamber has nearly 40 members from the Manchester and the mountains area.
Harrington continues, “We’re growing in the area, but we want it to be an organic process too. We want our members to want to be a part of this organization. We also want to grow at a pace that is attainable and doesn’t lose what makes our chamber special – providing constant value to its members. We often say this is a marathon; the vision is for 2020, let’s take the time to do this right. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’m very happy with the Northshire businesses that took a bold step and joined us early on. We invite others throughout the full Shires to join us as they feel comfortable to do so.”
Included in the expansion of membership and pages of the visitors guide, is also the amount of advertisers within the area guide. Every member of the Chamber gets a listing; for something additional anyone can also advertise in the guide which includes various sizes of advertising and a mention on the fold out map. Last year the guide had 40 advertisers; this year it grew by 100% to 80 advertisers.
70,000 of the visitor guides will be distributed throughout the region including New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and the rest of New England. Additional distribution points include a focus on the Capital Region and every Welcome Center throughout Vermont State. The Chamber also attends 5-7 travel shows throughout the year where the visitors guide is a main centerpiece.
As a way for the Chamber to celebrate the new visitor guide, it will be hosting two launch celebrations throughout the Shires on Thursday, April 27th. The first will be held in the Northshire in none other than the Northshire Bookstore beginning at 9am. Spiral Press will serve refreshments; a quick ceremony unveiling the new cover is also on the agenda. The second celebration will be the same day and will be held at JC’s Tavern starting at 4pm for the Southshire organizations. Light appetizers and a cash bar will accompany this celebration provided by JC’s Tavern.
“We like to celebrate hard work, our members and the kick-off to Southern Vermont’s busiest tourism season. We are excited to see how this visitors guide can bring together the Shires and showcase all that we have to offer the world. I am very proud of this piece and the team that put it all together. This is an ‘always onward’ moment for us and the start of what I think is a very positive relationship among the Shires,” Harrington concluded.
Members and the community are encouraged to attend either or both of the celebrations to pick up their visitor guide boxes (if they’re a merchant that hands them out) or just to have a look! To RSVP please call the Chamber offices at 802-447-3311 or email Marie Shutts at firstname.lastname@example.org