Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Arriving Somewhere

I had an interesting on-line exchange with an old friend on Monday afternoon, which was and is about as close to the middle of August as you can get. I wanted to mention that because the subject we were typing/chatting about was where is the "middle of New England," as he phrased it.

The geographic center of New England, according to answers.com (and if they don't know, with a name like that, who would?) is Dunbarton, New Hampshire. And because you'll be sick with worry otherwise, let me share that Norwich is 143 miles distant from Dunbarton.

I met him decades ago when we both worked in Germany; I was a member of the US military and he was a contractor who supported various military units in a variety of ways. He's been living in Italy for quite some time, and enjoying every minute of it, except as he told me 'when we get overrun by tourists, who get in the way.'

As someone who enjoys being the occasional tourist elsewhere, I decided to not take his criticism personally, since that's not how he meant it, I hope. I sort of smiled and suggested it must be a nice complaint, to have so many people coming to see your city and area that you regard them as a nuisance rather than as a novelty.

I was thinking about the efforts so many groups, agencies, and committees in and around here make and how they, too, would love to have that kind of return on their investment of time and talent. He expressed surprise that I lamented our comparative lack of tourists since, as he pointed out 'You're in the middle of New England where all the American History comes from.'

I'm thinking of suggesting to the folks who operate Bradley, T. F. Green, and Logan airports that they add that to their signs in the arrival terminal, but as we continued to talk about historical tourism, a phrase I have heard a lot at various times here in Norwich, he pointed out that it's more a mindset and state of preparation than simply a marketing strategy.

He's seen my pictures of various places in and around Norwich that I've posted to a Facebook page I created for just that purpose, perhaps overly optimistic, entitled Celebrating Norwich Connecticut and his less than delicately phrased concern was about what he called 'the support structure for singular, but single, attractions.'

He pointed out that what he and I might agree are 'touristy places' such as London, Paris, New York City or Boston, had a large commercial operation ranging from transportation through hospitality tying it all together from a visitors' perspective, creating opportunities for employment and investment at the local level.

He closed by suggesting a series of moments unless organized and, to some extent, mechanized were less meaningful and marketable as memories if there weren't hotels to stay at, restaurants to dine in and other nearby attractions to complement the main draw.

He concluded a lot of history is nothing more than incidents and accidents. A successful tourism industry that depends on history, on the other hand, is anything but.
-bill kenny

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