Brilliant Foliage Ignites Vermont Hillsides, Triggers Travel Boom

With the fall foliage season at peak or nearing peak across Vermont, the travel-dependent state is seeing benefits.

"In my opinion, it is the world's best," deputy Vermont tourism and marketing commissioner Steve Cook said of Vermont's foliage.

Cook said visitors who come to enjoy the brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges lighting up Vermont's hillsides will spend $110-million on stays at Vermont inns, hotels and resorts this foliage season. He noted that the state spent $280,000 this year marketing itself both domestically and internationally as a fall destination.

"We come every year," traveler Lorena Borish from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania told necn. "We come up here for the calming effect. People are nice; it's just a quiet place."

"There is quite a lot of variety here," traveler Ros Chaffin from Nottingham, England said of the colors in the trees. "Perhaps more than I thought it was going to be -- from the greens and golds, right through to the brilliant reds. It's just brilliant."

Cook said the state had a goal of boosting mid-week visits, because many travelers come from so-called "drive markets" within three to seven hours away and have tended to, he explained, make their bookings at the last minute.

"We're hearing from lodging destinations around the states that some of their guests are making plans two or three days out from their arrival," Cook told necn. "They're really paying attention to see what kind of weather they're going to be having while they're here, and basing their planning a lot on those circumstances."

Cook noted that the weather for Columbus Day Weekend was spectacular, and that many businesses reported strong reservations and sales.

For people who may be unable to come to Vermont this time of year, South Burlington entrepreneur Uwe Heiss has a new offering. He is shipping the foliage experience here nationwide, through his startup Vermont Leaf Company.

"Orders have picked up," Heiss said.

The company markets boxes of a dozen vacuum-sealed leaves for $20. Larger boxes with about 50 leaves retail for $40. Yes, he's serious, he insisted.

Heiss said most of his customers so far are folks who went to college in Vermont, visited once, or who have another personal connection and who want to rekindle memories. He said the West Coast and Texas are among some of the addresses to which he has shipped leaves.

"The stories we've heard so far are the people who grew up in Vermont and moved away and who wanted to come back, but it didn't work out this year, so they want something to bring back the memories," Heiss said. "And with the leaves, they have a smell, they have a texture, and a look that you can't get just from a photograph."

Vermont's Department of Tourism and Marketing will be providing foliage reports through the end of October on its website, which also offers other information on activies to do in the Green Mountain State. 

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