Portsmouth tourism summit shows collaboration pays off
Many examples of collaboration were put forward during the Destination Portsmouth tourism summit, including Vintage Christmas, a joint effort of The Music Hall, Strawbery Banke Museum and the city of Portsmouth, and the expansion of offerings by the Prescott Park Arts Festival because of partnerships with other businesses and organizations.
PPAF Executive Director Ben Anderson said that in the last five years the festival has formed alliances with 22 organizations, resulting in 11 new offerings that attracted an additional 73,000 people to the park.
Retail business owners, restaurateurs and hospitality managers said marketing the multitude of events happening in the city throughout the year is the way to draw business and revenue for everyone.
"Once we get them here, they come back," chamber of commerce Tourism Manager Valerie Rochon said.
Barbara Massar of Pro Portsmouth was recognized for her efforts to put on events, including Market Square Day and First Night, that draw hundreds of people from outside of Portsmouth for the day, night and weekend year after year.
More than 1 million visitors stayed overnight in one of Portsmouth's 1,900 hotel rooms spread over 19 hotels in 2012.
City Manager John Bohenko said Portsmouth is a cultural destination with more than a dozen museums and historic homes, at least four theaters and more than 160 restaurants that seat more people than there are residents living in city.
Bohenko asked those gathered to support a Senate bill that would change the formula of the state rooms and meals tax to be based on tax contribution. He said the state made $232 million in rooms and meals tax last year, and $59 million was returned to cities and towns. Of that, Portsmouth received 1.6 percent of the local distribution, or $946,000, which Bohenko said does not reflect what the city contributed to state coffers or the municipal expense associated with such active tourism.
A survey of visitors conducted by the chamber last summer showed that 76 percent of visitors were in the city for the first time, and 32 percent of visitors had learned about Portsmouth in a travel guide.
Domestically, most visitors are coming from Massachusetts, with Connecticut, other parts of New Hampshire, California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania also high on the list. Internationally, most visitors come from Canada, followed by German visitors, who come mostly for the fall foliage season, which they refer to as "Indian Summer."
The chamber will soon launch a new tourism-focused website, goportsmouthnh.com.