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Connecting a Newport Business to a Larger Market

Tourism is a key economic driver for picturesque Newport, Vermont, located on Lake Memphremagog, a 30-mile-long lake that also borders Canada. A steamer cruise ship, called the Northern Star, is making a big splash in the area, bringing visitors to the city. Captain and Owner Chris Johansen moved the ship from Lake Champlain to Lake Memphremagog to start a new cruise business. He offers scenic 1.5 hour cruises of the lake, both the US and Canadian waters.

Northern Star’s current customers are day trippers. To help expand his business, Johansen connected with NCIC for a USDA-RD, Rural Business Enterprise Grant to develop a website. “When I first started in this business, there was no such thing as a website. Today, you can’t be in business without one – it is a necessity,” says Johansen. “This website is incredibly important to our business as a piece of our overall marketing strategy. We also used part of the grant for SEO. Since we launched in January, we are at the top of Google searches … we’re playing with the big boys now! We wouldn’t be at the level we are at right now if we didn’t have financial support from NCIC. Our website is truly our connection to the world!”

Currently, Northern Star is the only international lake cruise ship in New England, so Johansen’s goal is to connect to the Canadian market with longer, 3-hour cruises in the Canadian end of Lake Memphremagog – and his website will help him attract passengers.