Forecast sees a big summer season for N.H.

A study conducted for the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism says that this summer could be the best yet for the state’s hospitality industry.

The study by the Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State University expects that more than 13 million visitors will travel to New Hampshire this summer — an increase of 2 percent over the summer of 2006.

Many of the visitors will most likely be from other parts of New England, the Mid-Atlantic states and Canada’s eastern provinces.

The report also predicts total visitor spending to be about 4 percent above last summer’s levels, to more than $1.6 billion and setting a new spending record.

“If weather cooperates and this forecast is realized, New Hampshire will exceed the record summer of 2000,” said Division of Travel and Tourism Director Alice DeSouza. “Nearly 40 percent of all visitors and visitor spending on an annual basis occur during the summer months of June, July and August. The growth is likely due to more overnight trips and extended weekend visits, including Fourth of July weekend.”

The Independence Day holiday weekend is New Hampshire’s busiest weekend of the year, even topping prime weekends during the leaf-viewing and ski seasons, and is also the start of the state’s busiest tourism summer months of July and August.

With Independence Day falling on a Wednesday this year, travel experts are expecting that many will extend their holidays. More than 1.2 million visitors are expected to come from outside New Hampshire during the extra-long holiday period and are anticipated to spend more than $165 million, according to the Plymouth State study.

Resorts, hotels, motels and campgrounds also could see a 1 percent increase in average occupancy rates for the weekend compared with last year.

DeSouza said gas prices are not anticipated to have much of an impact during the holiday weekend, pointing to a study conducted last summer by the Travel Industry Association that found that, on a typical driving vacation of 800 miles, higher prices would add $30 to overall trip costs.

“A slight increase in cost will cause some visitors to make slight modifications to their travel plans, but won’t cause them to cancel,” DeSouza said. “In fact, many lodging properties throughout New Hampshire have posted gasoline-friendly packages on visitnh.gov, providing an added-value to the customer.”
According to oil industry analyst Trilby Lundberg, gas prices have dropped 11 cents in recent weeks, which might make any potential pain at the pump even less of a factor when July 4 rolls around. — CINDY KIBBE

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