After Encouraging Weekend for Travel Sector, Vt. Destinations Launch Digital Promotion

The Vermont Passport Challenge offers people who visit destinations around the state a chance to win prizes

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Travel-dependent businesses across Vermont were busy on Monday's Indigenous People's Day — the holiday that replaced Columbus Day in the state.

"I thought the scenery was beautiful," said traveler Paul Ferland of Plymouth, Massachusetts, who spent the holiday weekend exploring Vermont and New Hampshire with his wife and grandkids.

The pandemic was never far from mind, Ferland said.

"We're always cautious and always follow all the rules," Ferland said of measures like wearing masks and washing hands regularly.

Visitors like Ferland were a welcome sight across Vermont's hard-hit hospitality sector, after seven months of year-over-year losses.

The state, whose economy relies on tourism, recently lifted hotel booking limits aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.

However, people from areas Vermont officials see as having concerning levels of COVID-19 activity must quarantine at home for 14 days before traveling, or for seven days, then get a negative COVID test.

More information on Vermont's cross-state travel guidelines is available here.

Sam von Trapp of Stowe's famous Trapp Family Lodge said he was nearly at 100% capacity this weekend. His guests were from drive-distance locations and were looking to spread out on the lodge's 2,600 acres and beyond. They were all subject to rules like a health questionnaire, von Trapp noted.

"We were worried that people might be upset by all the requirements, but the reality is people were so happy to be out and doing something fun," von Trapp told NECN. "The more we can keep the numbers down all over the country, I think the quicker it gets everybody back to work."

The Vermont Attractions Association launched a new promotion Monday aimed at encouraging visitors or staycationers to explore destinations around the state.

"It was a really, really hard season," said Kristin Bogovich, who is on the board of the Vermont Attractions Association.

The group used $10,000 of federal CARES Act money, along with expenditures from members, to launch what it is calling the Vermont Passport Challenge, a digital promotion.

A thousand players can answer trivia questions and play games on their smartphones when they arrive at participating destinations. Those players can collect points over the next several weeks that will earn the winners prizes in November.

"We really hope that this program lives forever," Bogovich said. "I think it'll open people's eyes up to all the different places you can explore that are in your own state and your own backyard."

Ben & Jerry's is on that list of attractions and was hoping its long line of holiday weekend customers would consider using the new digital passport to explore some of Vermont's lesser-known stops, too.

"You can start at the bottom of the state, you can go to all corners, you'll go home saying, 'I can't believe I went to Ben & Jerrys, I finally made it, but oh my gosh there was so much more!'" said Amy Weller of Ben & Jerry's.

Weller, Bogovich and von Trapp said they want to see everyone continue adhering to safety guidelines while supporting businesses in their travels.

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