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Posted by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Savoring Salem All Year Round

Destination Salem Executor Director Kate Fox is a destination marketing professional with nearly 25 years of experience in the tourism industry. We spoke with Kate about Salem as a year-round visitor destination, how Salem has weathered the pandemic, the lure of the waterfront and the upcoming So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival, which supports small businesses in downtown Salem this month.


Tell us about your career in tourism and how you came to lead Destination Salem.

I’ve been with Destination Salem since 1998, with the exception of 2002 – 2008, when I was Director of Heritage Tourism for the Essex National Heritage Commission. I returned to Destination Salem in 2007 when, under the leadership of Mayor Kim Driscoll, the City committed to investing in destination marketing and acknowledged the importance of tourism to the economic vitality of Salem.

We have accomplished a lot over the past fourteen years, including rebranding Salem with the “still making history” logo, executing strategic marketing plans, investing in public relations and participating in trade and consumer shows.  Destination Salem is a team of three and we have an excellent marketing committee and a committed board of directors who support the organization’s mission.

Visitors often equate Salem with Halloween, when actually Salem offers amazing year-round culture, cuisine, history and outdoor adventures.  What kind of visitors come to Salem and how do you market Salem as a four-season destination?  

The Salem audience is primarily leisure travelers, with strong drive market visitation from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. California and Texas alternate in the top spot for long-haul domestic. International travelers and group tour rounds out our visitor mix, and we look forward to the return of these two important markets.

Our pre-pandemic marketing strategy did a lot with a little. We focused our advertising in RTC visitor guides and targeted digital advertising, while using public relations to reach traditional and new media outlets. Thanks to recovery marketing funds, we have conducted consumer research, redesigned, and created a new advertising campaign that promotes the walkability of Salem (“It’s all within steps!”).

We treat Salem Haunted Happenings as its own entity – October travel to Salem represents about 30% of our annual tourism, and it has its own website, social media, and marketing plan.

What can visitors expect at the upcoming Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival, which runs from February 11-13?

There will be a record-breaking 37 ice sculptures this year! Due to continued concerns around COVID, there will not be a chocolate and wine tasting event, but there will be two nights of ice sculpture illumination (February 11 and 12) and a live ice carving demonstration on Saturday, February 12.  In addition, we are creating a “Chocolate Hearts Challenge” game on the Destination Salem app that invites people to scan QR codes, earn points, and win prizes.

Individual businesses are running promotions, special menus and events, such as the Anti Valentine Tour at Salem Night Tour, as well. All of the information can be found on

Throughout the pandemic, Salem has diligently kept visitors and residents well-informed about health and safety guidelines.  What new initiatives emerged in how you interact with visitors?

The City of Salem was incredibly responsive to the devastating economic impact of the pandemic, and the Economic Development Recovery and Revitalization Task Force was convened in March of 2020. Through that group, we have communicated recovery efforts, grant opportunities, and collaborative initiatives to Salem’s business community.  The task force includes the City of Salem, the Salem Chamber of Commerce, Salem Main Streets, the Salem Partnership, Creative Collective, and Destination Salem. We have worked hard to ensure the entire Salem business community has been supported throughout the evolving crises of COVID.

Some of the new initiatives that have come out of the pandemic include expanded outdoor dining, free PPE for businesses, small business grants, employee retention bonuses, webinars and town halls and the new Salem app.  I don’t think they all would have happened if we didn’t have the EDRR in place as the foundation for recovery. We’re all very proud of the fact Salem is coming out of the pandemic with a net gain in small businesses in our downtown.

As a port city seeped in commercial and recreational maritime history, what is happening along the Salem waterfront these days?

From a tourism perspective, we have the Salem Ferry connection to Boston, and harbor access aboard the Schooner FAME, Mahi Cruises, and Essex Heritage boat tours to Bakers Island. In a typical year, the Port of Salem welcomes small and mid-size cruise ships and has hosted visiting vessels like the USCG EAGLE.

The first designated national historic site in the country, Salem Maritime NHS is a favorite walk for locals and tourists. Derby Wharf extends a half-mile into the harbor and is home to the replica 1797 East Indiaman tall ship, FRIENDSHP and Derby Light. Currently undergoing maintenance, we hope to see FRIENDSHIP fully rigged again in 2023.

Salem loves its green space, and the City has committed to investing in its signature parks as part of the Salem 400 initiative. Improvements are planned for Forest River, Salem Willows, Palmer Cove, and moving Pioneer Village to a new location at Camp Naumkeag.

On the commercial side, the former coal power plant is now a natural gas-powered Salem Harbor Footprint Plant, and the extra land has been approved for development of an offshore wind marshalling yard.  Salem’s offshore capacity will be improved by a significant dredging project, which was recently announced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

When you have guests coming to visit, where do you like to take them for a true Salem experience?

There is so much to do in Salem, I customize each visit!  For first-time visitors to Salem, we start with a Salem Trolley Tour, the House of the Seven Gables, the Salem Witch Museum, Notch for a beer, and either Turner’s or Finz for a meal. I recommend accommodations based on my guests’ taste and can always rely on the Peabody Essex Museum and Salem Food Tours to entertain groups with varying interests.

I do a radio show/podcast ( for Destination Salem, and I always ask the same question of my guests. The most popular answers involve just walking around Salem, whether it is at Salem Willows, along Chestnut Street and the McIntyre District, the waterfront and Salem Maritime National Historic Site, or grabbing a cup of coffee and strolling downtown.  There’s really no wrong answer in Salem!

Thanks Kate!