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Carolina Cooney is the new Executive Director for the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. A small business owner, community leader and year-round resident, Carolina was born on Martha’s Vineyard and returned 11 years ago to put down roots. We talked to her about her new job and summer on the Vineyard.
Congratulations on your new role promoting tourism on Martha’s Vineyard. Tell us about your background, and how you came to the job.
Thank you so much! For the past eight years on the Island, I worked nearly every role at one of our local public libraries, and while I adored the library and its patrons, I was hungry for something more challenging. My background is in Search Engine Marketing, Graphic Design and Copywriting, and I really missed that world. I was thinking about starting my own Search Marketing firm when I came across the ad for the Chamber and realized it was a perfect match for my skills and expertise. I went for it, and here I am!
You entrepreneurial and business experience will be valuable to the island’s 4,000+ small businesses, many of whom rely on seasonal activity to stay afloat. How does the Chamber get the small business message to summer visitors, many of whom are day-trippers?
Our Chamber is a tireless promoter of small businesses, which make up the majority of businesses on the Island. We have a vast web presence; our social media accounts for Visit MV and MV Chamber of Commerce have more than 50K combined followers, and our website, mvy.com, gets more than 500k visitors every year. On top of that, we give away 17K printed Travel Guides every year and have contact with more than 100k visitors through our Visitor Center. That’s a lot of opportunities for promotion! Beyond that, we utilize the SBA and MOTT’s resources to promote small businesses in the community and have exciting plans to greatly expand our messaging and advocacy in the coming year.
Tourist traffic to Martha’s Vineyard is sky-high in summer and fall, but less so in the shoulder seasons (November-April). Is there growth potential for marketing the Vineyard off-season?
There is immense potential for year-round tourism on Martha’s Vineyard.
We have wonderful events going on throughout the year, and the Vineyard holds magic in all seasons. We are only seven miles off the coast of Massachusetts, but it truly is a world away. Summer is of course amazing, but it’s so relaxing to visit other times of the year and take time to enjoy everything the Island has to offer (including great winter birding!).
Short-term housing, staffing and transportation are perennial challenges for summer destinations all through New England. How are you feeling about summer of 2022 in terms of the Vineyard meeting these challenges?
These are complex challenges, and we continue to feel the effects of both Covid-19 and the extreme downturn in non-immigrant visas being issued over the past five years. Our businesses are doing their best to meet these challenges, but we do expect to see impacts again this year in terms of being able to staff at full capacity. Transportation is less of an issue here, as we have a robust bus system, but just having enough people to do the work is the real difficulty, as well as housing. We are working on solutions for the future, but it takes a lot of collaboration, time and patience.
As a year-round resident who knows the Vineyard inside out, do you have any advice for the visitors coming here for the first time this summer?
My first piece of advice is to make sure you know how you’re going to get here – Martha’s Vineyard is an island, and you’ll either need to take a ferry or fly in. If you don’t already have a vehicle reservation, you’ll want to leave your car on the mainland and walk-on the ferry – there’s plenty of ways to get around on the Island once you’re here.
That said, the Vineyard really has something for everyone. I think a good place to start is to walk around the three main towns: Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. They are each unique and charming in their own way, and offer a great introduction to Island life, with lots of locally owned shops and restaurants. A tour is an ideal way to see the whole island in a few hours, and if you’re here for just a day it’s the perfect way to make notes for your next visit.
There are lots of beaches that are accessible for quick or extended visits, like Eastville in Vineyard Haven, Inkwell Beach in Oak Bluffs, and State Beach (where the Jaws Bridge is!) going into Edgartown. Also, definitely try to also make it out to Aquinnah, which has the picturesque clay cliffs and wonderful Wampanoag-owned shops (I treasure a hand-painted ornament I got there many years ago!). There is so much to do here and so many special spots – it’s hard to condense it down! My best advice is to call or pop into our Visitor Center and we’ll be happy to help you put together a customized itinerary!
Thank you, Carolina.
It’s been a pleasure!
For more information, visit the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce.