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Vermont tourism takes a hit from flooding and extreme weather

Over 5 million tourists visit Vermont in the summer months.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg listened to Freda Hollyer, owner of the Inn by the River, describe flood waters, which destroyed her family's hotel, along the banks of the Lamoille River, July 17, in Hardwick, Vt. Last week's storms dumped up to two months' worth of rain in a couple of days in parts of Vermont and New York.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Vt. — July typically finds Vermont brimming with tourists drawn to Green Mountain vistas, kayaking on scenic lakes and rivers, and visiting historic sites and quaint village inns.

But the historic flooding that struck last week, forcing evacuations and causing extensive property damage, has deterred many would-be visitors and dealt a blow to a mainstay of the state’s economy — at least for the short term. Over five million tourists visit Vermont in the summer, according to state data; total spending by visitors in Vermont last year was about $3 billion.

Umiak Outfitters, which has locations in Stowe, Richmond, and Waterbury, with outposts on the Lamoille River, relies on tourists renting canoes and kayaks and booking outdoor adventure tours. But owner Steve Brownlee said on Friday the business had lost between $5,000 and $10,000 following the floods.


“The weather pattern doesn’t help right now,” he said in a phone interview. “Things could be back in business in a day, but that does not work to be the case with present weather forecast.”

At the Mad Taco in Middlebury, Vt., people looked out at Otter Creek on July 16, which had risen overnight and threatened to flood the restaurant. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Derrick Patenaude, the owner of Up North Canoe and Kayak Rental in Morristown, has been similarly struggling with a lack of tourists.

“The rain before the flood was bad to begin with, so we were getting a lot of cancellations there anyways,” Patenaude said. “Now, with the flood it just made trips completely out of the question.”

Up North typically runs river trips from mid-June through July. Patenaude has had to cancel around 10 trips, he said, meaning revenue is down about 30 percent.

Other businesses that rely on tourism, especially in the summer, have lost out-of-state visitors who support hotels, and state and local tours.

However, many indoor tourist spots appear to be holding steady.

The Capitol, a movie theater in downtown Montpelier, displayed a motivational message after the flooding. Vincent Alban For The Boston Globe

One of the Vermont’s best-known stops, The Ben and Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, only closed for one day due the weather. “We’re still here. We’re Vermont strong,” said a tour guide named Jamieson who declined to give his last name.


Carey Underwood, director of mission partnerships and programs at King Arthur Baking Co., said that business’s headquarters and flagship location in Norwich “had a few slow days at the bakery, store, and café, but no closures.” The company offers popular history tours and baking classes onsite.

Underwood said in an e-mail the overall impact may not be known for weeks. “If there continues to be hotel closures in nearby towns, such as Woodstock, we could see impact into August,” she said.

Heather Pelham, the commissioner of Vermont’s department of tourism and marketing, said the summer is the state’s busiest season.

“It’s when families and individuals have time to travel,” Pelham said. “The timing [of the floods] is unfortunate, but there’s plenty of summer left and there are many areas of the state that were not heavily impacted.”

It’s true that many in the state were left unharmed, Bob Schwartz, the director of marketing and sales at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, said.

“I think a lot of people think the entire state has been devastated by it, which is not the case,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of calls from folks coming in from New York and Boston asking if the lodge sustained any damage, and luckily we did not take a big hit.”

Summer is especially busy at the lodge, which relies on families coming in, Schwartz said. Though some of the areas around Stowe were impacted, only three out of the resort’s 300 employees were affected.


Some smaller hotels have been more seriously impacted by a loss of visitors. Fat Sheep Farm & Cabins in Hartland, which has five units, had four cancellations last week after the Vermont 100 endurance race was canceled.

“They didn’t want to come anymore because they’re not racing,” co-owner Suzy Kaplan said.

Kaplan, like other business owners, is worried about the impact of social media on small businesses.

“Everybody’s looking at social media and the news and stuff and thinking that everywhere is flooded but that’s not really the case at all,” she said. “It’s only in pretty isolated areas.”

Like Schwartz, Kaplan encouraged tourists to call the hotels they were planning on staying at to inquire if they were truly impacted by the flooding or not.

Not all hotels were unscathed, however. The Woodstock Inn and Resort, located in Woodstock, hasn’t sustained damage to its property but is “temporarily closed due to a lack of potable water,” Elaine Olson, the hotel’s interim president said.

“The local municipalities are working tirelessly to address the issue, make repairs, and begin testing required to ensure water safety,” Olson wrote in an e-mail. “And, while they are working diligently, it is not a quick process.”

Olsen wrote the inn is hoping to reopen to guests on July 24.

Sheri Baraw Smith, the chair of the Vermont Lodging Association, said the group immediately reached out to hotels and inns to gauge the damage. Only a few were damaged in the flooding.


“Vermont is a strong state and we take care of one another,” she said. “But we do rely on the folks that come and visit for the success of the state in the long term.”

Pelham, the state’s tourism and marketing commissioner, said she’s hoping tourists will keep visiting the state this summer, despite the weather.

“The best way that you can help support Vermont is to come visit,” she said. “Support our small shops and restaurants, support our small rural towns by coming to visit, because visitors are going to be a key to our recovery.”

Elllie Wolfe can be reached at Follow her @elliew0lfe.