No Evidence of Negative Impact on Regional Travel Demand
Tourism is an important part of New Hampshire’s economy, representing about 10 percent of the jobs in the state. A study conducted by Nichols Tourism Group and submitted to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee as part of the Northern Pass application, shows that there are a number of issues that influence a visitor’s decision on where they will travel, but there is very little evidence to show that the location of transmission lines is one.
Using data collected by Plymouth State University’s Institute for New Hampshire Studies and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, as well as interviews with representatives from the state’s tourism industry and a prospective visitor’s survey, the Nichols report concludes that tourists consider a range of factors when deciding where to travel, such as how easy it is to access the destination, the range of activities available, offering new or improved attractions, marketing, weather, and the overall value for the money.
There is a lack of empirical evidence that transmission lines influence tourism, as no known studies of transmission line development shows a quantifiable impact on the tourism industry. The Nichols Tourism Group said that during the group’s own work on more than 250 assignments studying a wide range of tourist destinations, they found no indication transmission lines have an impact on tourism.
“Never in the prior 20 years of planning work has any concern been raised regarding the presence of power lines and their possible negative influence on visitor demand,” the report said.
A Look at a Project in Maine
Neighboring Maine provides strong evidence that supports the conclusions in the Nichols Report. The Maine Power Reliability Program (MPRP) is a $1.4 billion project constructed between 2010 and 2015 that included power line and substation upgrades in 75 communities, including popular southern coastal towns, Western Maine foothills, and quaint Down East communities. According to the Maine Office of Tourism, the state set tourism records in 2015 and in 2016, with a 10 percent increase in tourism spending over the two years.
Data collected from 2015 show that one of the largest growth areas was in outdoor recreation, particularly travel packages that include outdoor activities like hiking, boating and winter sports. The increase in tourism was statewide, with data from 2016 showing revenue increased in every county in the state. The rise was not limited to years of and after completion on MPRP. Tourism spending has been on the rise in Maine since 2012, which was during construction, and the number of tourism-related businesses grew in years 2008 to 2013, including years when the project was in development.
Maine travel experts attribute the increase in visitors and tourism spending to good weather, low gas prices, helping destinations develop better experiences for visitors, and a national marketing campaign. This conclusion is in line with the conclusions reached by the Nichols Tourism Group on what motivates visitation and drives tourism revenue.
Tourism Industry and Tourists Agree
Who better to ask about the decisions that influence their travel than the people most likely to visit New Hampshire?
A survey of active travelers from the seven Northeast states showed the majority were seeking good value for their money, a range of things to do, and convenience, like good cell service and being close to home. While the survey points to possible barriers, the research showed that when a place has much to offer, the collective power of the destination far outweighs concerns regarding power lines.
Nichols also spoke with members of New Hampshire’s tourism industry about the factors that influence business performance. They included weather, the economy, gas prices, exchange rates for Canadian visitors, and changing interests of the younger generation. No one said that past large infrastructure projects had been a significant factor influencing the state’s travel industry, the Nichols’ report found.
You can find the story about Maine’s record-setting tourism years below.
Nichols Tourism Group Study