It’s the peak of the summer vacation season, meaning thousands have flocked to the Berkshires. But where do year-round residents go to relax?
The Berkshires has solidified itself as a place to see theatre, art, musical performances and enjoy the outdoors — especially during the summer. While the area becomes a hotbed for tourists, local residents scatter all over the place to vacation. Sharon Polidoro owns Berkshire Travel Group.
“It’s pretty much rest, relaxation on a beach,” Polidoro said. “You do get some who like to do hiking. Right now Europe has picked up again too. Of course everyone loves the food over in Italy. The destinations, the beaches and the mountains.”
Polidoro says she is considering adding staff as travel has ticked up since the recession. While she says she is plenty busy with honeymooners, family, and corporate accounts during the summer, winter is another peak time.
“Wintertime you get a mix of everything,” she said. “With school vacations, you get a lot of people who are looking to do the Disney experience with the kids. Then you have the tropical islands. Dominican Republic is very popular and Mexico, the Riviera Maya part. Hawaii has become very popular just recently.”
Polidoro says despite expensive airfare, Hawaii is becoming more popular as people who got married on the islands are returning with their kids. Kathie Clairmont owns Squaw Peak Travel. With more than three decades in the business, she says this year has been the busiest in recent memory. For Clairmont, the most hectic months are February and March as people look for experiences they can’t find in the Berkshires.
“If it’s Europe, it’s more sightseeing,” Clairmont said. “But if it’s Disney World, a big amusement park for all the kids, everybody wants to go see Mickey and Minnie. Then as far as the cruises, everybody loves cruises. They get the shows and the island experience where they can go scuba diving, snorkeling or jet skiing. Things like that, that you can’t do around here.”
Most of the cruises out of Boston or New York City start in the spring and run until the fall, but some cruise lines offer year-round trips.
Tourists spend $355 million a year in Berkshire County, leading to an economic impact of $564 million a year, according to Lauri Klefos, president of the 650-member Berkshire Visitors Bureau. Klefos says there is also an effort to lure people within a 90-mile radius to spend their time off in the Berkshires instead of traveling far away.
“For people within the region, its spur of the moment travel,” Klefos said. “So one of the unique things that the Berkshire [Visitors Bureau] does that only Boston does in Massachusetts besides us, is we run a half-tix program. That is day-of performances tickets for all of the theaters and performing arts center half-price. We sell them at four different locations around the area and we promote those through our website and through some ads that you see in the local media telling people to go to one of these four locations.”
With a database of 6,400 people living within 50 miles of the Berkshires, the majority who take advantage of the ticket program are area residents or second home owners staying in the region for the summer, Klefos says. The half-price tickets are sold at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Barrington Stage in Pittsfield, the Lenox Visitors Center and the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington.