Martha’s Vineyard’s growing reputation as an exclusive enclave for the well-heeled was bolstered last week when Internet giant TripAdvisor released a study that ranked the Island the most expensive family summer vacation spot of their 15 most popular rental destinations in the U.S.
TripAdvisor calculated that a week’s stay on the Island for a family of four would cost $3,661.13 on average. Rounding out the top were La Jolla, Calif., Miami, Fla., Maui, Hawaii, at $2,497.44, $2,288.81, and $2,465.12, respectively. Chatham, the only other New England destination, comes in fifth at $2,120.18. The best summer deal according to the survey, is Palm Springs, Calif., which totals a measly $1,256.41, barely a third of the cost of a week on the Vineyard.
Newton-based TripAdvisor estimated the overall cost of the destinations by combining the property rental cost — based on the average weekly cost of a two-bedroom vacation rental property from July to September, 2014, as found on TripAdvisor — a one-day bike rental for four, basic groceries, and one dinner for four at a restaurant.
Historically expensive destinations like Nantucket, Newport, R.I., and the Hamptons in New York were not among the 14 other destinations, many of which, it should be noted, are in the south where costs are generally less.
Travel costs to the destinations were not included, so a family of four that brings their car would add a minimum of $186 to their Vineyard tab. The survey defined “basic groceries” as one box of breakfast cereal, one gallon of milk, one dozen eggs, four chicken breasts and one bag of mixed vegetables. TripAdvisor determined these items would cost $28.30 on the Vineyard. It did not determine, however, how this paltry amount of food could possibly feed a family of four for a week.
TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site, according to online audience measurement firm Media Metrix. According to Google analytics, the website averages nearly 260 million unique monthly visitors, and has membership of over 60 million people worldwide.
When the Vineyard is presented as an expensive destination to this enormous audience, does that help or hurt business on the Island?
“If you want to spend a lot of money, there are plenty of places on the Vineyard where you can do that,” Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce said in a phone interview with The Times. “But there are a lot more affordable rentals here than many people realize,” she said. “There’s the campgrounds, the youth hostel, and a good number of modestly priced small inns and B & B’s that people should know about. There are marvelous high-end places here. But we don’t want a young family to be scared off from visiting because they’re on a budget.”
Ms. Gardella thought the Vineyard housing costs skewed high because there was only one value-based property — Nashua House in Oak Bluffs — out of the 13 that went into the TripAdvisor metric. “Small inns that are value priced were not represented on this survey,” she said.
Ms. Gardella suggested that smaller establishments could do well to follow the Nashua house example on TripAdvisor. “The Nashua house has great reviews on TripAdvisor and the price is right. They’ve done a terrific job with their social media. They score a four and a half out of five and they have over 200 reviews.”
Ms. Gardella thinks that social media is underutilized by many Island businesses, and she encouraged people to contact the MV Chamber of Commerce for help. “We’ve had staff from TripAdvisor come here three times to speak with businesspeople who want to gain more Internet presence,” she said. “The simple thing of encouraging guests to post reviews can make a big difference. You want to keep your content fresh. You want to be responsive to negative reviews and use them as an opportunity. Our [TripAdvisor] trainings do all of that.”
Ms. Gardella said anyone who wants to be part of the next TripAdvisor advisory should contact the chamber of commerce. “You don’t have to be particularly tech savvy,” she said. “Just let us know and we’ll make sure you get an invitation.”