Office of Travel and Tourism director tours Franklin County, looks to increase presence

Tim Smith, who co-owns Apex Orchards in Shelburne with Courtney Basil, and former state Sen. Anne Gobi, now Gov. Maura Healey’s director of rural affairs, listen as Basil speaks during a visit by Kate Fox, executive director at the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, on Friday.

Tim Smith, who co-owns Apex Orchards in Shelburne with Courtney Basil, and former state Sen. Anne Gobi, now Gov. Maura Healey’s director of rural affairs, listen as Basil speaks during a visit by Kate Fox, executive director at the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Kate Fox, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, speaks at the WEconomic Development Chamber Breakfast at Greenfield Community College last week. She later went on a tour of some of Franklin County’s tourism destinations.

Kate Fox, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, speaks at the WEconomic Development Chamber Breakfast at Greenfield Community College last week. She later went on a tour of some of Franklin County’s tourism destinations. SCREENSHOT/GREENFIELD COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Courtney Basil, who co-owns Apex Orchards in Shelburne with Tim Smith, speaks about agritourism during a visit by Kate Fox, executive director at the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

Courtney Basil, who co-owns Apex Orchards in Shelburne with Tim Smith, speaks about agritourism during a visit by Kate Fox, executive director at the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-05-2024 5:00 PM

Looking to increase her department’s presence around the state, the executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism recently visited some of Franklin County’s tourism destinations.

Kate Fox was taken on a whirlwind tour around the county on Friday, meeting business owners and making connections alongside Anne Gobi, a former state senator from Spencer who now works as Gov. Maura Healey’s director of rural affairs. The tour was facilitated by Jessye Deane, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, which operates Franklin County’s Regional Tourism Council.

During the WEconomic Development Chamber Breakfast at Greenfield Community College that morning, Fox explained her agency is working to increase its presence around the state, mentioning that someone recently introduced her as the director of “the state Department of Whozeewhat.”

“And I thought, ‘There’s work to be done here,’” she said to laughter.

The Office of Travel and Tourism promotes Massachusetts as a year-round leisure and business travel destination. It sits under the state Executive Office of Economic Development and works directly with Massachusetts’ 16 regional tourism councils.

“Tourism is a big economic driver. Many people consider it the third-largest industry in the state,” Fox said. “Because it is not coded as one industry, it’s hard to demonstrate that, because it’s several — it’s hotels, accommodations, it’s restaurants, it’s activities, it’s attractions, it’s outdoor [recreation]. It is all of those things, combined. But we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Fox then embarked on her tour of Franklin County businesses, starting with Apex Orchards, co-owned by Tim Smith and Courtney Basil. The caravan — which included Linda Dunlavy, executive director of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, and Sarah Burrell, the Chamber of Commerce’s marketing manager — chatted about educating and accommodating agricultural tourists and about how climate change is affecting the season. Basil said the night between April 25 and 26 had some harsh cold that negatively affected some crops in the area.

“Tim and I are just hoping by the grace of God that we don’t have too much damage. We’re really fortunate here, in that the sections where we’ve placed our orchards have good air drainage, meaning that the cold air won’t settle as much, and that’s entirely thanks to Tim and his very talented growing methods,” Basil said. “We are hopeful that we sustained minimal damage.”

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Fox and the others also stopping by Yankee Candle Village, Historic Deerfield and a couple of other spots before finishing the day by visiting some of Finicky Farm’s baby goats at The Brewery at Four Star Farms in Northfield.

“It was a really nice opportunity,” Fox said in an interview on Tuesday, reflecting on the tour. “I love Franklin County, and it’s just filled with so many things to do — outdoor recreation opportunities and historical and culture sites.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-930-4120.