Tourists remind us how good we have it

October 27, 2012

Scenery is Golden

We are generally aware of the tremendous positive economic impact that autumn foliage season and scenic tourism brings to our fair State. The foliage season has concluded in the North Country and White Mountains regions. It’s the second-most important season for out-of-state and foreign visitors who flock to New Hampshire to enjoy the scenery.

Acccording to Tai Freligh at the NH Division of Travel and Tourism Development: “Fall is our second busiest time of year, with forecasted spending of over $1 billion dollars by visitors over the three month period. Columbus Day Weekend is known as the peak foliage viewing and this year was no exception. The colors were fantastic that weekend, especially in the Great North Woods and White Mountains regions. Scenic beauty is always at the top of the list when it comes to what draws travelers. Foliage season draws the largest numbers of group travelers and visitors from outside New England.”

Jayne O’Connor at the White Mountains Attractions Visitor Center in Lincoln offers: “It was an excellent foliage season! Visitors and locals called the colors among the most vibrant seen in many years. It seems our near perfect weather all summer bought us near perfect color for the fall. International visitors increased, we had visitors from as many as eighteen different countries represented at the White Mountains Visitor Center daily.

Colorful leaves generate one billion in tourism dollars to New Hampshire businesses? Cha-ching!

NH as world-renowned scenic destination? A-yuh.

Why do we continue to attract so many admirers from afar? Is it our forests, mountains, lakes, quaint villages? Our good roads, shopping, fine dining and lodging? It certainly isn’t proximity to home for the increasing numbers of international visitors!

I’ve heard many variations on a common NH story of taking visitors for a scenic drive through the White Mountains and Lakes Region while noting how surprising it is to watch breathless reactions to our “big backyard” landscape as seen through visitors’ eyes. Only then do we realize we feel nonchalant about all that stunning golden scenery and our good fortune to live here.

A friend spoke to me of a woman from Ohio who asked him to take a picture of her standing in front of Silver Cascade in Crawford Notch on a gray day; not too great for taking pictures. “She was just beaming standing there... a typical tourist shot, really. You could tell how pleased and proud she was to be here. And some NH folks get ticked off when leaf-peepers stop in front of us on the road. But man, they're absolutely spellbound at the sight of our day-to-day landscape.”

We remain the envy of people visiting from places less beautiful. Sometimes we need foliage tourism – perhaps to remind ourselves to not become blasé about the remarkable place we are fortunate to live!

Visitors react in awe to what we have here. They needn’t know the whole story of how we have collectively worked intentionally - as people of this State, in our communities and in the leadership of private organizations and government agencies - to both protect and care for our most cherished and important scenic resources.

Tourists arrive for our scenery. They can’t take it with them when they go and hence they expect to find it undiminished when they return. We need to continue to protect our State from threats that would change the scenic character of our homeland.

The beauty surrounding us is not simply about the economic value of rooms and meals tax revenues but really more about our State’s core identity. Our landscape defines us as a people. A Mark Twain quote contrasts New England with The South: In the South, people shape their land, in New England, the land shapes its people.”