Editorial: Hampshire County’s new sales pitch

Last modified: Thursday, July 18, 2013

Even if you’ve lived in Hampshire County for years, it is worth taking a peek inside a new website designed to boost regional tourism. For starters, you can sample how this area is being marketed to travelers. The pitch is jazzy, as this snippet from the home page of visithampshirecounty.com suggests:

“Locals adore it here. Guests daydream about us. Why all the love? Hampshire County is just one of those pockets on the planet where you can be yourself — any side, any shade, any shape.”

Awww. Stop. No, don’t.

“We’ve got the music, museums and martinis to make city slickers feel at home; and the mountains, humanely raised meats, and home-brewed mead to rival any farm town.”

Wait for the kicker: “Hampshire County is salt of the earth meets on the rocks with salt.”

Sounds light, but the site’s economic purpose is hefty. It now serves, says Tony Maroulis, co-director of the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council, as the area’s “digital front door.”

And for perhaps the first time, many of the Valley’s leading business, cultural and educational institutions are standing shoulder to shoulder, ready to welcome visitors to what they’re selling as “Hampshire County: The Other Side of Massachusetts.”

A key concept behind regional tourism council is that locations people come to explore in the Valley need not reach out alone to visitors. All Valley tourism destinations benefit from crossover visits.

That is the philosophy behind these councils, 16 of which exist in the state. The local one is the fruit of hard work by the Amherst, Easthampton and Northampton chambers of commerce, schools like Smith College and arts groups such as the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts and Museums 10. State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg secured a hefty grant that got the wheels turning a few years ago. (Disclosure: The site enlisted the Gazette as a partner to provide calendar listings.)

The site isn’t standard chamber marketing fare. In a section it bills “the Out Side of Massachusetts,” it speaks of how lesbian and gay people have found greater acceptance in the Valley than other places. “With one of the strongest and proudest LGBT communities in the country, Hampshire County is the place to be out and about.”

Overall, the site is bright, attractive and functional. Those who run it include invitations for information on things they’ve so far overlooked. They are sure to hear from hospitality businesses that haven’t yet found their way onto the site.

As a work in progress, it starts with good momentum.


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