NH Signs of the Times: When a Community’s Welcome Mat Says ‘Go Away’

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By Mark Okrant,
NH Travel Guru

No doubt, you’ve heard the adage, “you only get one chance to make a first impression.”

Why then, do so many communities and resorts appear to go out of their way to make their impression upon travelers a poor one?

In communities all over the globe, often the first impression a traveler gets is from a sign stating, “Welcome to This Burg.” These signs should be designed to display the community’s leading attribute. A welcoming sign will exhibit the town’s brand in the form of an appealing symbol or slogan such as, “Spittoonville: the Cleanest Little Town in Kansas.”  Signs convey a spirit of local pride, and communicate a reason for travelers to stop.

Mark Okrant, the NH Travel Guru

It is essential that the welcoming sign be well designed, strategically placed, and frequently maintained. The resulting impression will be favorable, and may convince travelers to visit and spend money in local shops and restaurants, before moving on down the road.

Belmont is a delightful town of more than seven thousand, situated in New Hampshire’s Belknap County. As one of the gateways to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it is accessed by tens of thousands of non-resident motorists each year. The town has an interesting center, a beautiful library, a regionally famous ice cream venue, and one of the best breakfast spots in these here parts. It also has one of the worst entry signs your Guru has ever witnessed. Situated on Route 140, between the Tilton Outlet Mall and the race track, this sign breaks all of the rules (see photo): it is boring, says nothing about this charming little community, is in disrepair, and is camouflaged by vegetation. An amiable place like Belmont deserves better.

By contrast, there is Rincón, Puerto Rico, a town of more than fifteen thousand, situated in Puerto Rico’s northwest corner. Rincon is a compelling beach and surfing town that exudes friendliness in spite of the island’s economic woes. Despite needing costly repairs to its roads and infrastructure, Rincon’s mayor chose to spend more than a quarter of a million dollars each on a pair of arches that welcome travelers along Route 115, the gateway to the community (see photo).

There must be a lesson here somewhere. While it might be foolish to expend six figures on a welcoming symbol, Rincon understands the value of that first impression. Failure to do so sends a suggestion to travelers that the locals just don’t care about being hosts. Sadly, under these circumstances, potential visitors elect to move down the road, taking their money to towns that do.

Mark Okrant, NH Travel Guru is pictured with his latest book.

After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joins IndepthNH.org to offer concise, informative insight into New Hampshire’s travel and tourism industry as a business, while showcasing the people and places you want to know. This guy’s really been around. And, he’s funny, too.

For more about Mark’s compelling tourism-based murder mystery series, visit www.markokrant.com. For information on current things to do in New Hampshire, go to: http://www.visitnh.gov/what-to-do/event-calendar.aspx





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