By Mark Okrant, NH Travel Guru
A fortnight ago, I joined nearly one thousand others in a long line that snaked through downtown Concord. The collective goal of this band of strangers was to meet Hillary Clinton, shake hands, and receive an autographed copy of her new book, What Happened. I’m not a Clinton zealot. So, you would be correct in asking why I would spend two hours in the cold and rain, then an additional hour inside Gibson’s Bookstore for such a purpose.
The reason is rather simple. Who among us would fail to step into the breach to make our spouse and children happy? In my case, I arranged for my wife of nearly forty-seven years to meet her favorite political figure, while sharing our daughter’s experience working in the Clinton foundation. When my wife realized that she would be facing horrible weather, a long hill climb, and a three-hour wait, she decided to abandon valor as well as the former first lady. While there was no pressure placed upon me to take her place, I knew what needed to be done. Moreover, there was the matter of the thirty dollars I’d paid for my wife’s ticket.
You’re probably wondering why a book signing has a place in a travel column. The simple answer is—a great deal.
Others in the long line spent their time discussing politics, comparing notes on local eateries (and drinkeries), commiserating about recent operations, and ogling at the arrival of Vernon Supreme, the very curious looking performance artist and political activist. Supreme did not disappoint—his long beard, boot for a hat, and small legion of pony-leading followers provided a respite from the otherwise dreary wait. But, I do digress.
While my companions amused themselves in the aforementioned activities, I put on my (wet) tourism researcher’s hat. By eavesdropping on others’ conversations, I learned that Mrs. Clinton had drawn a substantial portion of her audience from surrounding towns and other regions of New Hampshire. However, a number of others had saved their vacation time to travel from as far away as southern Florida.
By the end of our first hour together, people within my hearing range began to compare notes about places to eat, local cultural outlets, and shopping venues. It quickly became apparent that Concord’s recent $13.2 million investment in making the downtown area charming was paying dividends. Numerous line-denizens temporarily broke ranks to purchase hot drinks, food from a Main Street pizza establishment, pastries, and assorted snack items. Others indicated a strong intention to return to Concord to patronize the boutiques and restaurants situated along Main Street, as well as its superb movie and live theaters.
After two hours in the cold, we navigated the secret service check point and entered Gibson’s marvelous bookstore. Based upon the behavior I witnessed, a significant number of return visits and book purchases will be in the offing very soon.
What does all of this tell us? Several years ago, my research colleagues and I estimated that the typical leisure traveler in New Hampshire spends an estimated ninety dollars per day. Even if we allow for seventy-five percent attrition, this means that the Hillary Clinton book signing event will have contributed a healthy five figures in local spending.
I cannot, in fairness, conclude this column without reporting that the three hour wait proved to be entirely worthwhile. Mrs. Clinton greeted each of us with a smile and a firm handshake. She even spent several seconds asking about my daughter’s experience in Papua New Guinea, and her current service.
Bring on more rain, colder temperatures, and even a few more ponies. It will all be worth it.
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, go to: