VFR and HFR: two travel industry essentials
By Mark Okrant,NH Travel Guru
Those of us who closely scrutinize the travel and tourism industry appreciate the significance of a simple three-letter abbreviation: VFR. The term connotes visits to friends and/or relatives, and is one of three purposes—along with leisure and business—that engenders the vast majority of all travel occasions, both domestically and internationally.
According to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office, approximately one-third of all U.S. citizens’ overseas travel occasions involve visits to family members or friends. By definition, a VFR occasion requires that travelers’ leading purpose or their type of accommodation involve a visit to one or more friends or relatives. VFR serves as either the first or second leading purpose for travel to most U.S. states.
Throughout the years, I have been fortunate to develop friendships with travel and tourism professionals situated throughout the state, nation, and a number of foreign countries. My wife and I also have two cherished daughters. I mention this because, while visiting these friends and family members, we have been introduced to wonderful attractions and restaurants that are not discussed within travel promotions.
As an example, we recently visited our daughter, son-in-law, and new granddaughter in Los Angeles. Our daughter knew that we would not be interested in visiting any of the popular “tourist traps” (been there, done that). Universal Studios—no thank you. Hollywood Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier, Getty Center, Hollywood Bowl, Disneyland, Rodeo Drive—same response.
Having friends or family residing in a place is a huge benefit. Taking advantage of their local knowledge, we are able to avoid masses of people intent on checking another place off of their (ugh!) bucket lists.
Whenever we visit LA, my wife and I immerse ourselves in one or more smaller scale settings. Instead of standing in line at It’s A Small World, we take a ride on the diminutive, but elegant Angel Flight Railway. Rather than fight the crowds on the Santa Monica Pier, we head to the quirky Last Bookstore, an intimate, but unforgettable experience.
Last week, we had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Bhagavad-gita Museum, viewing what our guide called as a forty-five minute “aural-visual delight,” one that the late George Harrison described as “better than Disneyland.” The visit afforded us the opportunity to learn about the history and religious philosophy of the Hare Krishna branch of Hinduism. Later, upon exiting the museum, we were treated to a procession of believers who were entering their adjoining temple. Once again, reality was so much more interesting than the artificial worlds commonly associated with Hollywood and Anaheim.
The point of all of this rumination is to draw readers’ attention to the significant role that HFR—Hosting Friends and Relatives—plays in creating interesting travel experiences.
Closer to home, by serving as guides or sources of information, New Hampshire residents have the capacity to play an integral role in the state’s tourism industry. Their actions accomplish the dual purpose of increasing visitor spending and expanding the range of attractions and other businesses that benefit from the presence of visitors.
Understandably, when friends or family members ask New Hampshire residents for suggestions about attractions, many will respond: Hampton Beach, Franconia Notch, Mount Washington, or North Conway. This is understandable, as these are interesting, very popular places.
However, when friends and family members ask your guru the same question, I’m more likely to direct them to a moose tour, to Barney and Betty Hills’ UFO encounter site, to the Republic of Indian Stream, or to the Black Heritage Trail. Each of these provides an opportunity to ponder something exceptional, without fear of being buffeted by crowds.
In closing, I put the question to you: given the opportunity to HFR, what New Hampshire places will you recommend?
In April 2017, after forty years as an educator, researcher, consultant, and mystery writer, Mark Okrant joined IndepthNH.org. Mark shares his insight about the travel and tourism industry, focusing upon its importance to New Hampshire. From time to time, he’ll spin a humorous story or two, always looking to educate us about the industry he loves.
Learn more about Mark’s tourism-based Kary Turnell murder mystery series by visiting www.markokrant.com.
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