By Mark Okrant, NH Travel Guru
In last week’s column, we looked at five key topics impacting the global travel industry, as developed by tourism specialists from numerous countries, under the direction of David Edgell, a professor in East Carolina University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism. As stated earlier, the significance of this list extends far beyond travel and tourism, as it is a barometer of contemporary international political, social, economic, and technological actions.
The second part of the list contains another five topics: resolving barriers to travel (e.g., visas, passports, et.al.); understanding the impact tourism has on the geopolitics of socio-economic progress; effects of natural and human-induced disasters on travel; educating users about new technologies made available by the tourism industry; and, the impact of emerging nations upon tourism demand. This week’s column will look at the last two items on the list.
- The impact of technologies such as the Internet, iPhones, iPads, and social media cannot be overstated. The Internet has made it possible for small, isolated properties to compete with the New Yorks and Disney Worlds in promoting themselves. Previously, a small region in northern New Hampshire could not possibly approach the promotional impact of mega-travel destinations. The disparity between their marketing budgets guaranteed a backwater position for all of this state’s attractions and destinations. The Internet has provided a partial leveling of that playing field.
The presence of portable electronic devices has further altered the tourism marketing and planning phenomenon by facilitating the ability to obtain information en-route. How important is access to information while traveling? One need only examine the demands of campers. Among backcountry campers who seek sites that provide no utilities—running water, flush toilets, showers, etc.—there is a reticence to be without their Wifi, such is the importance of “staying linked.”
- At no time in history have we seen emerging nations occupy a more important place in the world of international tourism. For New Hampshire, discussions about attracting international visitors traditionally have focused upon Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and one or two other European nations. I recall a conversation with a leading tourism official approximately twenty years ago. At that time, I recommended that the state take initial steps to attract visitors from China. Looking at her reaction, you may have thought that I suggested colonizing Mars. In that official’s defense, China’s emergence was not immediately on the horizon, and the state’s travel marketing budget was already stretched to its limit.
Jumping ahead to the present day, we now know that China provided 2.6 million U.S. travelers, while Brazil (2.2 million), South Korea (1.8 million), India (1.1 million), Columbia (0.9 million), and Argentina (0.8 million) also provided significant numbers of visitors during 2015. Together, these six emerging nations were responsible for 12 percent of all international travelers to the U.S. that year. Clearly, New Hampshire would love to attract a proportion of these visitors, as all are sizable spenders.
While these are increasingly important sources of international visitors, one needs to appreciate that attracting and satisfying them will necessitate much preparation on the part of the state, both local and regional tourism associations, and individual businesses. These actions won’t be performed easily, nor will they be inexpensive. We will look more closely at what it takes to attract and serve international visitors in a future NH Travel Guru column.
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.
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