Courtesy Salem News November 11, 2005 page 1:


Halloween in Salem: Tourism down, business mixed





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By Tom Dalton

Staff writer



SALEM — October was the best of months for the downtown economy — and also the worst of months. It all depends on who you ask.

"Our October was our best ever," said Juli Lederhaus, general manager of the Hawthorne Hotel.

"My October was off quite a bit," said Elaine Carreiro, owner of Port Maia, an American craft gallery and gift shop on Pickering Wharf.

That appears to be the split opinion on this Halloween season, the most important month of the year for local businesses. The big hotels and many restaurants did well, while the small shops appear to have struggled.

"As far as I can tell, it was a mixed bag," said Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce.

Two important October numbers are indisputable and interrelated. Salem had more than 11 inches of rain during the month and 158,000 visitors — a decline of 65,000 from last year.

"The wet weekend weather was a real deterrent," said Peter LaChapelle, chief of visitor services at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

LaChapelle also pointed to skyrocketing gasoline prices and the poor foliage season for hurting tourism.

Despite all that, many businesses said they did well.

"The first part of the month was a little slow with the rain, but the last two weekends were great," said Ken Rothwell, owner of A Taste of Thyme restaurant on Washington Street. "I think I was up 21 percent for the last weekend and 18 percent the weekend before that."

John Drivas, the owner of Red's, a popular local restaurant, also did well. "It was up over last year," he said.

October was a good month for the hotels and inns, which got a boost from the Harry Potter convention at the start of the month.

The Salem Waterfront Hotel, which went through its first Halloween season in full operation, had a "very good month," according to General Manager Bob Byrnes. "Every weekend sold out, and we were over 80 percent (occupancy) for the month."

The bad weather actually helped business, according to Lederhaus, who runs the Hawthorne Hotel. "When it's rainy and cold outside, it drives people indoors. We kind of had the perfect storm of good business."

Tourist-related businesses reported mixed results.

"It was down, definitely down," said Barbara Szafranski, owner of Angelica of the Angels, a retail shop that does psychic readings. "I don't know if it was due to the weather, but I think a lot was the economy, too."

Shawn Shea, who operates the Salem Wax Museum and Salem Witch Village, two of the city's major attractions, said business was down about 15 percent for the month, which was typical for 2005.

"It's been a terrible year," Shea said. "Don't let anybody tell you differently."

Biff Michaud of the Salem Witch Museum, the city's No. 1 attraction, said he drew about 65,000 visitors, which was "pretty much the same" as last year.

Business jumped significantly for Leah Schmidt, operator of the Salem Trolley and the Haunted Footsteps ghost tour.

"The walking tours catapulted through the roof this year," she said. "We were having so many people we were calling in recruits to get extra staff to do the tours."



2001 — 141,708

2002 — 145,838

2003 — 172,777

2004 — 227,776

2005 — 158,157

Source: Salem Visitors Center