The city is working with other municipalities and regional tourism organizations to market its diverse attractions.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is looking to collaborate regionally to leverage its tourism marketing ability in the coming years as well as develop a distinctive brand.
"One of the things I'm really looking to do is brand North Adams," said Veronica Bosley, director of the city's Office of Tourism. "I think North Adams has a unique identity ... we've a slightly hipper, edgier audience."
Bosley gave an overview of last year's events and some updates on future projects of her office at a public meeting held at Desperados. About dozen people, including volunteers, city officials, new citizens and representatives from some of the city's venues, joined in a discussion about marketing ideas and new events.
The median age for visitors to the Berkshires is 52 according to the most recent data from the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, but North Adams appears to be attracting two distinct younger groups.
Bosley said Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has found its audience draws mostly within the 26 to 32 demographic and a slightly older group that's still younger than 52.
It's a type of tourist who's interested in attractions such as contemporary arts, the indie music scene, performance art and recreational activities.
City Councilor Lisa Blackmer agreed, saying the older-skewing Tanglewood crowd in South County is starting to be infiltrated by a younger tourist as interested in kayaking and hiking as eating out and attending concerts.
"We need to do a fan tour for the innkeepers in South County," she said, so they'll be knowledgeable about attractions northward. "Get them on the trolley and ride them around."
Berkshire Cultural Resource Center Director Jonathan Secor thought the tours should also include local innkeepers who may not be aware of the wide variety of activities in the area.
But the city's also considering turning east over the Mohawk Trail. Several participants noted North Adams' similarities with Greenfield and contacts that have already been made there and in Shelburne Falls.
Bosley said the city's involved with two regional tourist organizations, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau and the Mohawk Trail Association, and the Mohawk Trail and Mount Greylock scenic byways. With the Mohawk Trail's 100th anniversary in 2014 (and Mass MoCA's 15th) there are opportunities to collaborate with other towns to promote the scenic byway and its endpoint, North Adams.
• Winterfest drew more than 2,500
• Food Festival sold nearly $10,000 tickets
• Fall Foliage Week draws 30,000
• Motorama featured 200 cars
She's also looking to have the city become an Appalachian Trail Community, which found strong support among those present, and is collaborating with nearby communities on shared events and coordinating calendars so as to complement rather than compete.
The city is also trying to determine a geographic area, likely downtown, that can be designated by the state as a cultural district, similar to Pittsfield's Upstreet.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said marketing and branding will be the next step but the city didn't want to get too far ahead of the ongoing master planning process.
Bosley said the idea was to bring the near regions' many diverse activities and events together.
"We are looking to be an immersive place where people can do a lot of immersive things," she said. While a marketing plan hasn't been decided, the focus will likely be on North Adams as a "contemporary, exciting place to be."
Attendees suggested better use of the city's waterways, a dog park and indication of pet-friendly hotels, letting visitors know about the athletic facilities and playgrounds, development of the Mohawk Theater, and more information stations. The mayor said negotiations with Time Warner are making possible a local public access channel for tourism and travel, that could be the initial channel for hotels and motels.
In the meantime, Bosley said she's using larger organizations to help spread the word, such as the state Office of Tourism and Travel website, which allows free listings and profiles.
She's also pitching to MOTT's blog that looks for "under the radar" events. "I think some of our events would make for great features on the blog," she said.
Nearly completed is the city's new tourism website, explorenorthadams.com, which Bosley described as image heavy and simple to use. The site will include listing hotels, restaurants and cultural venues, and suggested iteneraries.
The mayor noted that a number of projects are at various stages, including a scenic rail line between Adams and North Adams next year, the extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail to Hodges Cross Roads and planning to bring the trail to Western Gateway Heritage State Park, and the positioning of the park to become the entrance to the Mount Greylock Reservation.
Those are big things for a small town, he said, but cautioned, "We're a couple years away from seeing something significant happening."