By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — As New Hampshire's nationally renowned foliage viewing season starts, state tourism officials are predicting that the brilliant, red, yellow and flame orange hues will translate into a lot of folding green currency for Granite State businesses.
Speaking at a gathering of state officials and tourism leaders at Gunstock Mountain Resort's new mountain coaster Tuesday, Jeffrey Rose, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, predicted a 5 percent increase in fall visitors and a 6 percent increase in spending compared to last year.
He said New Hampshire is predicted to have 9.5 million visitors this fall with $1.42 billion in direct spending.
Rose said that the forecast for a record-breaking fall season is based on a number of a factors, including a strong economy, low gas prices and advance reservations following a strong summer. He said that Rooms and Meals Tax revenue so far this year is $300 million, up $20 million over 2015.
"Last year New Hampshire saw more than 39 million visitors, which marks a 5 percent increase over the previous year. And visitors spent $5.5 billion, a seven percent increase over 2014," said Rose, who added "The fall season is a significant contributor to New Hampshire's tourism economy."
He said that New Hampshire has a lot to offer fall visitors in addition to its fabulous foliage, including recreational opportunities, a rich history and tax-free shopping.
Lorraine Merrill, the state Commissioner of Agriculture, said that agritourism is thriving on New Hampshire farms with harvest celebrations, farm to table meals, family outings, corn mazes and weddings, as well as pick-your-own operations in orchards and fields.
"Working agriculture is a big part of tourism and provides a backdrop for visitors," she said.
Merrill said agritourism has grown from 16 farms with $265,000 in income in 2001 to 190 farms with $3.8 million in income in 2012, making it the fastest-growing part of the state's agricultural economy.
The state's Division of Travel and Tourism Development unveiled its fall campaign to bring more tourists to the state. Victoria Cimino, director of the DTTD, said that the number of foreign visitors has increased and the state is seeing more visitors from paces as far away as California, Texas and Florida.
The new campaign targets Boston, New York, Toronto and Montreal, and a Live Free strategy is being utilized which touts the state's recreational opportunities.
Amy Landers of the Lakes Region Tourism Association said that this September has been a record-breaking month in the Lakes Region. She said Gunstock enjoyed its best Labor Day weekend ever and noted that Gunstock's chairlift rides were up 30 percent over last year and that Squam Lakes area attractions are showing 25 percent increases.
Greg Goddard, general manager at Gunstock, said the new mountain coaster has had such robust sales that it will remain open through November along with other Adventure Park attractions.
Jeffrey Rose, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, predicted a 5 percent increase in fall visitors and a 6 percent increase in spending compared to last year at a gathering at Gunstock Mountain Resort Tuesday. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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