Tourists return as pandemic eases

By Betsy Levinson - Editor betsy@theconcordbridge.org

Visitors are flocking to Concord in record numbers, according to Beth Williams, tourism and economic vitality director for the town.

“Our numbers are beating all prior years,” said Williams, adding that 10,000 visitors came through the town’s Visitors Center before the pandemic, and this year so far, 15,000 have come to town.

“I’m pleased,” she said.

Williams was hired in 2019 as an outgrowth of Envision Concord: Bridge to 2030, a comprehensive long-range planning document that outlined the need for a municipal office to handle tourism, among other areas. The report can be found on the town website: www.concordma.gov. She was the first hire.

Williams has beefed up her staff on the newly built second floor of the Visitors Center in the Milldam. There were 10 employees when she started in 2019, now there are 17 and she’s hiring.

“Buses visited the North Bridge, and left,” said Williams. “They wouldn’t stay for lunch. There was no economic benefit to our businesses.”

She created a plan for additional bus parking in Monument Square and helped tour bus companies plan itineraries. She let the restaurants and retail shops in the Milldam “know when tours are coming” to spread out the crowds and give people time to eat and shop.

The town has added tours through the Visitors Center, even scheduling custom tours with a focus on the town’s literary and historic past, indigenous people, the abolition movement and more.

Williams created a website to promote tourism, eventually getting some 30,000 hits a year, starting from nothing.

“All attractions report increased attendance,” Williams said. “People are ready to travel after being cooped up for so long.”

Cruise ships are adding Concord to their shore excursions, and international visitors make up about 10 percent of traffic to Concord.

“They are loving it,” said Williams. As is the Chamber of Commerce, according to its president, Marie Foley. “The Chamber is very supportive of visitors coming into town to enjoy absolutely everything Concord has to offer,” she said. Town Manager Kerry LaFleur said the town had “big numbers” for October. “It’s exciting because we lost a lot of revenue during the pandemic,” she said. LaFleur said the town budget had to be cut back because of the loss of meals and room taxes. “We cut back on capital spending,” she said, “and now we have to make up for lost ground.”

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