Smile When You Say ‘Tourist,’ Mr. or Ms. New Hampshire

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Hampton Beach

By Mark Okrant, NH Travel Guru

 There is a group of strangers out there. You’ve seen them countless times throughout your lifetime. And, despite all of the good they do, they are frequent targets of name-calling. I’m talking about “tourists.”

Mark Okrant

According to Ralph Griffiths, writing in the Monthly Review, the earliest documented use of the term dates to 1772. Understandably, it is formed from the word “tour,” which has linguistic origins in Great Britain and Western Europe.

Originally, the word “tourist” was intended to describe people who travel for pleasure or business. The act itself is properly labeled “tourism,” a term also used to describe the industry that attracts, accommodates, and provides services for people traveling outside the boundaries of their places of residence.

While tourism is an acceptable term, “tourist” has developed negative connotations during contemporary times. Too often, people who lack tolerance of strangers in their midst use contemptuous expressions such as “damned tourists.” Others post signs such as, “Welcome to New Hampshire (tourists); now go home!”

What’s responsible for this attitude? Some of the blame falls on the shoulders of the visitors. Generations ago, wealthy travelers, called “Rusticators,” arrived at a place, made excessive demands, and treated locals with disdain. This gave rise to a lasting we vs. they mindset.

The seasonal influx of visitors (mostly during summers and leaf seasons in New Hampshire) has a decided impact on the other-times slow pace of life. Traffic can be nightmarish; parking is nearly impossible; restaurants and parks are full of loud strangers; and prices at local businesses have been increased.

The result of this collection of inconveniences is stress; and stress brings out the dark side in many of us. What labels other than “tourists” have been used to describe seasonal visitors? Grant Barrett tells us that people in many coastal areas use the term “pukers,” a reference to seasickness. Montanans call their visitors “gapers.” Brits refer to “grockles,” a term whose origin comes from a 1964 film, “The System.” And, Granite Staters have been known to label visitors as “flatlanders” or worse.

A majority of us are willing to put temporary inconveniences aside, given the important role visitor spending plays in this state’s economy. What labels are better applied to these strangers in our midst? We recommend visitors, travelers (with a prefix of either leisure or business), or guests.

Most important— what ever label you apply, do so with a smile.

After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joins 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

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