Converting Tourists into Residents to Combat a Worker Shortage

April 5, 2018

With its rolling mountains and vibrant fall foliage, Vermont ranks as one of America’s most beautiful states. But while these sights attract thousands of visitors every year, they’re apparently not enough to convince some residents to remain in Vermont for the long term. In fact, the state’s labor force is smaller today than it was before the last recession. Young people have largely led this exodus, causing Vermont’s median age to become the second-highest in the nation. Combined with a low unemployment rate of 2.8 percent, local leaders fear that the state could face a labor shortage in the near future.

To combat this growing problem, last month Vermont lawmakers unveiled a new plan aimed at turning visitors into residents. In the Stay to Stay Weekend tourism program, guests spend much of their time taking in all of the attractions that have made the state famous. Along with these standard sightseeing activities, however, visitors also attend networking sessions and meetings with employers, chambers of commerce, and other business institutions. While other American communities have developed ad campaigns trying to convert tourists into locals, Vermont is the first state to create an entire program dedicated to this cause. “I got to thinking, visitors are an ideal captive audience,” said Wendy Knight, commissioner of Vermont’s Department of Tourism and Marketing.

Besides finding employees to fill open positions at existing companies, lawmakers like Knight also want to attract entrepreneurs and people looking to work remotely. A dozen people have signed up for the first program, which occurs this weekend and includes three participating cities. While Knight calls this upcoming session “a pilot of a pilot,” the goal is to eventually attract 1,000 visitors annually through the Stay to Stay Weekend program. For now, though, Knight just hopes enough people will show up to hold a networking reception. If not, one chamber of commerce official has offered to buy a beer for anybody who shows up.

Questions:

  1. What are the factors contributing to Vermont’s potential labor shortage?
  2. Do you think Vermont’s Stay to Stay Weekend program will convince tourists to become residents? Why or why not?

Source: Peter Coy, “This Weekend, Aging Vermont Will Try to Make Tourists Into Residents,” Bloomberg, April 5, 2018. Photo by Chensiyuan.

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