Promoting Portsmouth and the Seacoast as a tourist destination has been the highlight of Valerie Rochon’s five-year tenure as president of the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth.
One of Rochon’s first accomplishments in New Hampshire was creating a website – www.goportsmouthnh.com — highlighting hospitality services, attractions and amenities to encourage travel to Portsmouth and the Seacoast.
“If you’re going to do destination marketing, you have to have a destination website,” said Rochon, who announced this week that she plans to retire June 30.
Rochon took the reigns at the chamber in May 2016 after serving for six years as the organization’s tourism director. She announced her decision to retire on Tuesday morning.
“I’m inundated with emails, and they’re so lovely and I’m just humbled, totally humbled, to the point of being embarrassed. It’s been 11 years, I’ve made a lot of friends, or at least great business acquaintances,” Rochon said.
Rochon has helped to promote the Seacoast to become one of New England’s leading tourism destinations. Portsmouth has been featured in National Geographic, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and Boston Magazine.
She said usage on the goportsmouthnh.com is up 31 percent over last month, and in January, there was a 12.4 percent click-through rate to member’s websites.
In 2017, the Chamber of Commerce rebranded itself and became the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth. Nine months of research, focus groups, community meetings and strategic planning led to the new name, logo and initiatives.
Rochon said 60 percent of their members are in industries not related to tourism and hospitality, so they have held manufacturing roundtables, programming for women and are focusing now on how to help young professionals.
“It’s the collaboration people wanted and that is what we have been developing,” Rochon said. “They wanted to meet other businesses. They wanted to do business with other businesses.”
Monte Bohanan, chair of the chamber board and The Music Hall’s director of communications, said Rochon demonstrated leadership during the rebranding, and now, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She has the vision and the listening skills to understand the challenges facing individual members, whole industries and our region,” Bohanan said. Nancy Carmer, Portsmouth’s economic development program manager, praised Rochon’s work ethic.
“Valerie is the first to pitch in, the last to leave, the embodiment of positivity, a tireless and savvy cheerleader for every team she supports,” Carmer said.
Rochon has served on the NH Travel Council since 2012, which provides educational opportunities to tourism leaders through the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
“Valerie is approachable, willing to defend something she believes in, and has a can-do personality in helping others,” said Lori Harnois, director of the Division of Travel and Tourism Development at the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs.
A search committee to find Rochon’s replacement has been formed. Their goal is to have somebody in place by the end of May.