By Mark Okrant, NH Travel Guru
Periodically, I like to use this column to introduce readers to organizations and individuals that, in some cases, have a significant impact upon the travel and tourism industry.
In the Granite State, one such organization is the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance. Founded in 1985 as Inherit New Hampshire, the non-profit, member-based organization’s mission is to “strengthen communities and stimulate local economies by encouraging the protection and revival of historic buildings and landscapes.”
In this day and age when developers are in a hurry to attack remnants of yesteryear with a bulldozer, one may be tempted to ask what the significance of preservation is. Punnya Mann, writing for “Quora,” provides an excellent response.
She says that traditions are a foundation of any society. These define our past, shape who we are today, and will be in the future. Beside offering channels for bringing families and friends together, these traditions provide a basis for uncovering commonalities. And, at a time when divisions in society are becoming greater, is there any more important objective?
Your guru is a long-time aficionado of things historic. Therefore, a visit to a site where people fought for social justice or worked a landscape under very unfavorable conditions stimulates my patriotic juices.
Through the efforts of NHPA and its brother and sister organizations, thousands of artifacts have been protected from the onslaught of so-called progress. Examples of iconic imagery that remain due to their efforts include: native American and colonial archaeological sites, agriculture, residential, and industrial buildings, museums, schools, parks, theaters, and tourism structures (e.g., motels, diners, and roadside attractions).
It is a sad fact of life that cultural significance alone is not enough to save many of these wonderful settings. Too often, government bodies are only willing to step forward when they can be convinced that there is a benefit in the form of dollars and cents.
Jennifer Goodman, who has been NHPA’s executive director since 1998, is very familiar with the barriers that must be overcome to preserve New Hampshire’s heritage. Operating with a staff of four full-time professionals, Jennifer realizes that preserving our heritage involves more than retaining structures and spaces.
Successful outcomes here and elsewhere demand attracting multiple generations—travelers as well as locals—to visit these wonderful places. For those who remain dubious about the potential value of retaining cultural and historic sites, one need only look down I95 to New Jersey. There, in 2012, 11 million heritage visitors spent $2.8 billion dollars and generated thirty-eight thousand jobs.
Does New Hampshire benefit from heritage tourism? The answer is overwhelmingly, yes. As we have reported on more than one occasion in this column, the immediate future of tourism rests in the hands of Millennials. These 22 to 37 year olds have made it clear that authenticity is extremely important as they make travel plans. What can do more to insure authenticity than saving and protecting the landmarks and qualities that are representative of New Hampshire?
NHPA is working at the front lines, providing communities and others with a preservation toolbox, developing a set of incentives for downtown businesses, and helping to shape other needed strategies. Is this a good use of time and energy?
A national study conducted a decade ago indicated that heritage travelers added 1.5 days to their visits. That translates into a lot more than local pride.
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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