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Get ready, New Hampshire: The tourists are coming

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of New Hampshire's Department of Business and Economic Affairs, gives projections for summer tourism.
Dan Tuohy for NHPR
Taylor Caswell, commissioner of New Hampshire's Department of Business and Economic Affairs, gives projections for summer tourism.

New Hampshire’s tourism industry could be in for another record-setting summer, though officials say the ongoing pandemic and inflation could dampen growth.

State officials say 4.6 million people are projected to visit the state this season, up from 4.4 million in 2021. The reopened Canadian border is projected to boost tourism this year, officials said, after remaining closed most of last summer.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said New Hampshire has been setting tourism records since 2020.

State officials said this summer’s visitors could spend more than $2 billion in New Hampshire. But Caswell is also hoping some of those vacationers will decide to move to the Granite State to work, live or open a business.

At the same time, Caswell’s asking visitors to be aware of the impacts their summer fun can have on the environment. One way to reduce impact, he said, is to choose places that may be less crowded to explore.

The state is also working with national nonprofit Leave No Trace to educate visitors and industry leaders about protecting the environment.

“We're really depending on a natural asset that is not infinite in its ability to provide the beauty and the outdoor activities that people really come here for,” Caswell said.

Caswell said the changing climate is also a concern. As winters warm, he said the local winter sports industry has started to look towards offering recreation opportunities for summertime visitors, like ziplines or downhill mountain biking.

A recent study from the University of New Hampshire found increased visitorship has created problems for both trails and people in New England national forests.

New Hampshire State Parks and Recreation Director Phil Bryce said the state’s parks have had some success using a reservation system to mitigate those impacts.

“Visitors like to know they are going to be able to get into the park when they get there,” Bryce said. “And there isn't the pressure to get up early and sit in a line of cars.”

State tourism director Lori Harnois said COVID-19 outbreaks, inflation and high gas prices could stifle the numbers of visitors New Hampshire sees. But officials are expecting targeted advertising to encourage more visitors to make the trip.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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