By Mark Okrant,
NH Travel Guru
During last week’s column, your NH Travel Guru highlighted an important shortcoming in the mass media’s weather forecasting efforts. This week, it is only fair that travel forecasting be exposed to the elements, in the form of scrutiny by InDepthNH.org’s readership.
Since 1990, my colleagues and I have prepared forecasts of upcoming New Hampshire travel seasons for the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism Development. Each year, we have provided four seasonal (summer, fall, winter, and spring) and four holiday weekend (Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, and Columbus Day) travel forecasts. With Columbus Day a mere two weekends away, it is hoped you will hail this examination of predicting travel activity.
A considerable amount of groundwork must be paved before such a forecast can be prepared. After all, both the media and members of the State Legislature will be scrutinizing its contents. The first step is to review several years of travel trends during the period in question. Therefore, before a new forecast is prepared, I will review previous Fall season travel barometers and Columbus weekend forecasts in an effort to observe whether a pattern exists. More to the point, I am looking at the degree to which visitation (i.e., numbers of visits) has been increasing, decreasing, or remaining essentially the same, and will do exactly the same thing for traveler spending.
Next, I will look at recent travel forecasts projected by the futurists at the U.S. Travel Association. For the uninitiated, the USTA “guides and protects a shared vision for the nation’s travel industry . . . acting as a united voice.” The organization is arguably the nation’s leading source of travel research and other forms of tourism-related information.
This leads to step three. The last phase of the process necessitates a careful examination of the most current data available regarding a range of relevant variables, including: consumer spending, consumer confidence, price indices, unemployment and wage trends, disposable income, international/overseas arrivals, domestic trips, room demand, and gasoline prices. Finally, we review current news releases in an effort to spot actions or activities that may prove either beneficial or detrimental to travelers’ perceptions.
Once all of this information is gathered, I will draw upon more than four decades of experience in an effort to interpret the meaning of all of this information. My tendency in preparing travel forecasts is to be conservative. Reason indicates that it is more prudent to aim a little low and be pleasantly surprised, than to aim high and have the watchdogs out there be disappointed.
Our September 17th column addressed the potential negative impact of mass media’s weather forecasting on decisions to travel. Similarly, weather conditions (and forecasts) can undermine the most thorough travel projection. History has shown that a threat of steady rain or slippery driving conditions discourages leisure travel intentions, thereby dramatically affecting projected visitation and spending within New Hampshire.
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 his website here.
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