From Horton and the Grinch to Down Cape

For many of us the first of June is the real beginning of summer. No waiting for the official start on June 21st.

We’re opening cottages and making camp reservations for the kids, planning weekend getaways and picnics. And making reservations for our summer vacations.

This year, according to the state’s tourism gurus, we’ll be sticking close to home. That’s one reason the Office of Travel and Tourism is concentrating its advertising in New England and contiguous states.

These same experts guess that 27-million people visit Massachusetts each year, with Boston and the Cape being the favorite sites. Western Mass comes in third. About 3.3-million will head to Western Massachusetts.

When tourists visit us, they’re most likely to visit places like Six Flags, Old Sturbridge Village and Yankee Candle. So it’s up to the local chambers and tourism offices to get people to visit less famous places like Stanley Park, festivals and cultural events, historical sites like the Springfield Armory.

I got a sneak peek, by the way, of Horton and some of his Seussian friends at the Springfield Quadrangle, and that will soon become a prime destination for travelers with children. It officially opened yesterday, and is well worth a visit.

The tourism folks came to the State House a couple weeks ago, and fed us cranberry cookies and clam chowder along with a solid diet of information about.

Tourism in Massachusetts is a $13.3-billion industry. That’s how much tourists spend here. About 147,000 jobs that are supported by travelers.

Hampden County took in $336,330,000 in tourism dollars in 2000. That meant a payroll of $80-million, for 33,000 people, and $17.9-million in taxes.

I don’t know why people collect all this data, but the state’s travel people also know that 92 percent of visitors to Massachusetts are domestic vs. 8 percent international; that the average traveling household will spend $431; that we rank sixth among states in terms of overseas travel volume; that Canada is our largest international market, followed by the United Kingdom.

Who gets all this money? First, transportation. Second, lodging. And third, the food industry. Followed by entertainment and recreation and, finally, retail.

Hard to believe, but shopping is listed as the most popular activity by American vacationers to the Commonwealth. It beats out visits to historical places and beaches. It even beats out sports events, amusement parks, and nightlife, cultural events and festivals. Foreign visitors list dining in restaurants as their prime activity. Then shopping.

If you really want more statistics, go to visitmassvacation.com/research for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (MOTT). To make your own travel plans, go to the Greater Springfield Office of Tourism, on Columbus Avenue near the Basketball Hall of Fame, and get a copy of the state’s 2002-2003 Getaway Guide.

The guide includes an ad for the City of Westfield, by the way. It reads, "Peek at alpacas, stride across the ice, picnic in a lush grove or stroll our charming downtown, it starts here." (Charming downtown? With apologies to city hall, the chamber and the downtown merchants, I have to ask, who the heck wrote that?)

MOTT gave visitors to Tourism Day a pineapple–symbol of hospitality–along with a note explaining that Nantucket Sea captains would brought the unusual fruit back from the South Seas where they searched for whale oil. The fruit was a prized gift for family and friends. The captains also put a pineapple over the spike on their iron gate as a sign they were home and holding an open house.

Perhaps, that is why the State House has a pineapple on top. You’re always welcome to be a tourist yourself, and visit us in Boston. Just give us a call and we’ll give you a tour.

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