, Salem, MA


September 12, 2012

Tracking tourism

Summer season in Salem gets a mixed review

SALEM — This was a bustling summer in Salem. The sun decided to shine, and the crowds decided to show up.

But how good a tourism season it was varies from business to business.

For a ghost business, it was not spellbinding.

Tim Maguire, owner of The Salem Night Tour, a ghost walk, said he averaged about 80 people a night last year, and about 60 this year.

“There’s a definite drop,” he said.

It was good, but not great for the city’s major tourist transportation company.

“I would say this was probably an average year, or maybe a bit lower,” said Dave Butler, owner of the Salem Trolley, which operates six trolleys.

This was anything but an average summer, however, for the Peabody Essex Museum.

“We had a phenomenally successful summer this year, particularly sparked by the popularity of Ansel Adams,” Jay Finney, the museum’s chief marketing officer, wrote in an email, referring to the current exhibit on the famous photographer.

The museum had its best July since it reopened in 2003 following an expansion. August saw the second-highest numbers since that milestone. The total for the two months was 48,000.

Both hotels, the Salem Waterfront Hotel and the Hawthorne Hotel, reported strong summers, as did The Salem Inn.

Many restaurants also were crowded.

Victoria Station, which looks out on the waterfront, was so busy it had hourlong waits many nights for outdoor dining tables.

“This summer was definitely much busier” than last year, said Deanna D’Antoni, the bar and entertainment manager. “I think there were more people out and about.”

If visitors were coming to dine and stay in Salem, they weren’t necessarily shopping.

“I see less yellow and red shopping bags going past my window,” said Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce. “... I hear from some retailers that they’re still struggling.”

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