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June 21, 2008

City to take stock of local tourism

NEWBURYPORT — Some might say the city sells itself to tourists. One needs only to look around downtown on a summer weekend and see the walking traffic and bustling restaurants.

But those staked with marketing the area want to count their blessings, so beginning next week, the Chamber of Commerce will be conducting The Greater Newburyport Area Cultural Heritage Assessment Project.

Working in conjunction with Historic New England and the Newburyport Preservation Trust, the project aims to pinpoint the assets the city has and how to better market them to potential visitors by learning more about those visitors and where they are most likely to visit.

Karen Battles, vice president of the Preservation Trust, noted tourists who come to an area to experience the culture, known as "cultural tourists," generally stay longer and spend more money than those who come to the city for one specific event or festival.

"This is a way to focus our efforts so everyone in town is on the same page," Battles said. "A lot of times we are all laboring on our own whether it be house museums or maritime museums or the chamber nonprofits. This assessment will hopefully get us all in one room talking about what we have in common and branding ourself to send our message out to a larger audience."

Eco-tourism, maritime studies and the thriving art community are all aspects of the city that make it appealing to tourists looking for a bit of culture to go along with their vacation.

On Wednesday, the chamber will hold a meeting to explain the project and garner volunteers and enthusiasm.

"We want to put our arms around what is around for cultural heritage tourism that attracts people and assess what we can do to promote Newburyport in a good light," Chamber President Ann Ormond said.

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