“We all have a bit of tourist in us, and enjoy being hosts and sharing that passion for where we live.”
Vicky Tebbetts, Travel and Recreation chairwoman
The Vermont Travel and Recreation Council recently turned to longtime member Vicky Tebbetts as its new chairwoman. A resident of Cabot, Tebbetts brings about eight years of experience with the council, as well as professional experience as an attorney, writer, marketing and communications specialist and entrepreneur. Tebbetts said she is looking forward to supporting economic development through promotion of the Vermont brand.
“The Vermont brand is the backbone of our economy,” Tebbetts said. “It’s existed and been very robust for decades now. In a changing environment, we need to be stewards of that and advance that to maintain Vermont’s brand advantage in the tourism market. By that I mean there is a lot of competition, and we need to stay on our toes and keep innovating — everyone else is innovating — to stay No. 1.”
Steven Cook, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, said the Travel and Recreation Council is comprised of tourism industry professionals from across the state and advises the secretary of Tourism and Marketing on matters relating to state travel and recreation policy and promotional programs.
“The Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing looks forward to working closely with Vicky and the Vermont Travel and Recreation Council,” Cook said. “Our goals are to increase revenue generated by visitor spending within our state, and to raise awareness of the importance of Vermont’s tourism sector. Vicky’s experience will serve (as) a great benefit to Vermont’s tourism industry.”
Travel and Recreation has a statutory role to advise the secretary of commerce, and does so by working with Tourism and Marketing, Tebbetts said. “The Agency of Commerce may shift priorities a bit to focus on economic development and marketing the state as a whole,” she said. “(Travel and Recreation) is interested in that, and in helping to define what those priorities will be. It’s an exciting time for TRC and its members.”
According to Tebbetts, the role of the council evolves over time, and will continue to do so under her leadership.
For Tebbetts, it’s difficult to overstate the role of tourism to the state’s economy. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about and trying to articulate for quite a while,” she said. “The need to recognize that tourism supports all sorts of other industries in Vermont, not just lodging and dining, recreation and attractions — things we most quickly think about with travel. When you think about it, almost every other industry in Vermont is impacted in some way. It’s banking, finance, legal services. It’s construction, farming, and landscaping. It’s education. Tourism is a common thread that weaves its impact throughout all our other industries. And that impact is huge.”
Cook agreed that the tourism industry in Vermont is poised for change.
“Over the next two years, we hope to increase the number of room nights our guests stay by advertising Vermont to consumers in fly markets,” Cook said, referring to tourists who arrive by airplane. “Vermont’s visitors primarily drive to our state and spend an average of 2.4 nights. We hope to increase that number of room nights in an effort to increase visitor spending across the state.”
Travel provides an economic engine when attracting out-of-state visitors, as well as when enticing Vermonters to be what Tebbetts called, “tourists in their own backyards.” She said Vermont is widely known as an “outdoors” state.
“You hear that, but what does it mean in practice? It means we engage in visitor activity,” Tebbetts said. “We love the natural beauty, the outdoor recreational opportunities, the dining, art and cultural, the attractions. We love Vermont for a lot of good reasons, and if we live here, that’s part of why we came here, or never left in the first place.”
Love of state makes Vermonters great ambassadors. Tebbetts said at least a third of out-of-state tourists come to Vermont at least in part to visit someone who lives here. For others, part of the fun is getting to know locals who love where they live.
“That’s something visitors love,” Tebbetts said. “Maybe sharing a ski lift with someone who lives here, works in the tech industry, and has a season pass at Sugarbush. Or meeting someone hiking, then sharing local food with them at the top of the mountain. We all have stories like that, and I think we just know how to be good hosts and guides in our own state. We all have a bit of tourist in us, and enjoy being hosts and sharing that passion for where we live.”
Count Tebbetts as one of those born in the state who loves to actively engage it. She loves both alpine and Nordic skiing, as well as hiking, gardening and long walks along the roads around Cabot. She is married to Anson Tebbetts, Vermont’s secretary of Agriculture.
Tebbetts was elected to the two-year term as chairwoman by other members of the council, which she said includes a cross section of members from the industry. “I guess I’ve served on it eight years, and came to the meetings even before that,” she said. “The meetings are open to the public and tend to be well attended and robust.”
In announcing her election, Tourism and Marketing noted Tebbetts specializes in strategy, partnerships, writing for the web and social media campaigns. It also noted her work with a statewide financer of under-served businesspeople, her background in economic development and entrepreneurship.
Further, in 2016, Tebbetts completed marketing assessments and strategic plans with 27 different startups, from Brattleboro to Montgomery, and she chairs a Marketing and Promotion Community of Practice comprised of nearly 60 of Vermont’s food-system organizers, leaders and producers.
Professionally, Tebbetts said her calling is writing. “It took me a while to figure it out, but now, essentially, I define myself as a writer. I love to write, and it’s actually why I went to law school. Though I didn’t really want to be the kind of writer that lawyers are.”
Tebbetts said she’s ready to work hard to get people excited about travel in Vermont and about the Vermont brand. The kind of writer she is now should make her a great fit.
“I like to say that as I connect sentences, I connect people,” Tebbetts said.