By Mark Okrant
NH Travel Guru
Back when we were growing up, the approach of Labor Day was met with dread each year. I am, of course, referring to that holiday’s role in heralding a new school year. This was true for the majority of U.S. public school students during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Then, during the mid-1990s, this seeming fact of life changed.
According to CNN’s Daphne Sashin (“Back to School: Why August is the New September,” August 5, 2015), there were several reasons why school boards implemented a pre-Labor Day start to the school year.
Two of the more compelling motives for change were: to allow the first and second marking periods to be completed before the December holiday break; and to allow for more short breaks throughout the school year, thereby preserving the energy levels of both students and teachers.
This change in policy was made without regard to its impact on vacationers and the bottom line of hospitality and tourism businesses. With the summer vacation season shortened by one week (or possibly two), the new procedure occasioned a measurable decrease in revenues predicated by a sudden reduction in the industry’s seasonal workforce.
Michigan was one state that quickly responded to the impact of the new schedule. That state’s government took action, in 2005, by passing its Post Labor Day School Start Law (PLDS). This law became effective in 2007, after which the Anderson Economic Group, LLC was commissioned to study the full impact of PLDS. The research firm found that there was a significant increase in hotel room nights and revenues resulting from later school openings.
In defending the decision to stick with earlier starting dates, school officials throughout the United States have argued that the policy is beneficial to the educational well-being of their public school students. In their mindset, this concern outweighs any fiscal concerns.
In New Hampshire, when do schools open each year, and what does this mean to the state’s hospitality, tourism, and recreation oriented businesses and activities?
This year, most New Hampshire students reported during the last week of August, with many colleges and universities following suit. By the time you read this column, hotels and motels, campgrounds, restaurants, amusement parks, golf courses, and others will have lost many of their bellmen, housekeepers, waiters, maintenance crews, etc.—thereby affecting the flow of business during an extended period of favorable weather.
This creates a dramatic increase in pressure upon services, attractions, and accommodations to maximize their profits within a reduced window of opportunity. Is there anything an owner or general manager can do? Actually, there is; and the answer is as plain as that pair of trifocals on your face.
New Hampshire has literally thousands of senior citizens—members of the Silent and the Baby Boomer generations. Despite their age—most are ages 65 to 85—these old timers are still wise, energetic, and interested in trying out ‘new tricks.’
In response to those who argue that we old folks lack sufficient training, I quote Charles Dickens, “Bah, humbug!” Senior citizens are just as capable of absorbing on-the-job training as their much younger counterparts.
And, further exposure to hospitality and tourism education is available in the form of certificate programs at Plymouth State University, New Hampshire Technical Institute, and other in-state academic institutions. Therefore, a cure for the seasonal malady afflicting the state’s travel and recreation operations is just an email message away.
After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joined 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, click here.