By Mark Okrant, NH Travel Guru
Once in a while, I use this column to inform readers about travel terminology that is being misapplied, or should not be used at all. For more than a quarter century, I told all who would listen not to allow the word “tourist” to pass through their lips.
Tourist is a word filled with negative connotations. For that reason, residents and travel industry officials, in particular, should avoid it like a nest of red ants.
On this occasion, your guru is beseeching you not to utter the portmanteau, Staycation. A portmanteau is a word blending the sounds and meanings of two associated terms. In this case, the words “stay” and “vacation” are an incongruous combination.
By definition, a vacation is an extended period of recreation spent away from home or in traveling. Meanwhile, the term Staycation is used to connote an occasion spent at home, while involving day trips to local attractions.
In the field of travel economics, most tourism officials will tell you that they are primarily interested in counting visitors who cross their borders (e.g., from Massachusetts into New Hampshire), and spend at least one night in a lodging during that occasion. Marketing folks do not wish to muddy the waters by dealing with locals who are out for a car trip of short duration.
For much of my academic career, I actually championed the idea of counting travelers who, by leaving their places of residence, contribute significantly to the bottom line of the communities that host them.
However, this type of activity is not regarded an important measure by state, provincial, and national tourism officials, as it occurs due to a combination of local knowledge and impulse, rather than being a byproduct of seven-figure advertising placements.
Your guru admits that day trips by residents constitute an important phenomenon.
In fact, the digital magazine, Pursuits With Enterprise (published by the automobile rental company), conducted a survey of weekend getaway travelers during 2017. Among their findings: 1) no single destination type predominates; 2) what seems to be popular are repeat trips to the same destinations; 3) in young families, the vast majority of occasions are with children; however, 4) once the children are old enough to drive, parents are rarely included in their kids’ occasions.
What motivates these short stays (?): relaxation, enjoying new restaurants or bars, and the need to de-stress. Shorter occasions tend to be conducted on the frugal side, with more than three-fifths of travel parties spending less than $500.
Consequently, we find ourselves with a very real phenomenon that has been inappropriately labeled. Fortunately, the term Staycation appears to have nearly run its course among the mass media. The phraseology, “Vacation in Your Own Back Yard,” has been offered as a solution.
However, this label has its own shortcomings. Perhaps, we need to engage Nike’s popular 1988 brand, and Just Do It.
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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