State and Seacoast tourism officials are expecting a banner fall foliage season after uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on last year’s leaf peepers.

The New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development is predicting as many as 3.2 million visitors will head to the state for what is considered to be its second busiest season.

“We continue to see strong visitation and I think that will continue right through the fall season. The high vaccination rate on the Seacoast combined with the outdoor dining availability makes Portsmouth a desirable destination,” said Ben VanCamp, president of the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth.

VanCamp said he is also excited to see the reopening of the border with Canada, which he expects will boost travel.

At a press conference earlier this week, state officials estimated the flock of tourists to the state will likely spend nearly $1.4 billion during the fall travel season.

New Hampshire Travel and Tourism Director Lori Harnois expects the number of fall travelers will be similar to what the state experienced before the pandemic hit.

“Despite the challenges we still face, we expect to see a growth in visitation this season. People have a strong desire to travel and a fall road trip to New Hampshire is an excellent antidote,” she said in a statement.

At the Inn by the Bandstand in Exeter, proprietor Jaime Lopez is gearing up for a successful autumn season.

Photo by Jason Schreiber

Because of the pandemic, many of his guests are locals who have decided to stay closer to home while enjoying the beauty of New Hampshire during the summer and now the upcoming fall season.

“People are not getting into planes as much as they used to. … We are seeing people who are out of state as well, but we have been pleasantly surprised to have welcomed many people from the surrounding area. This is one of those beautiful, charming quintessential towns, and that puts us in a very good position to open our doors and offer them an experience that very few places do,” Lopez said.

The inn at 6 Front St. also recently opened a new restaurant called Ambrose as part of its effort to move away from a bed and breakfast concept to more of a boutique hotel.

Meanwhile, officials are also promoting the “Don’t Take New Hampshire For Granite” campaign, which includes “Leave No Trace” to encourage visitors to travel “intentionally and respectfully.”

The campaign is aimed at New England, New York, and other states that are within driving distance, including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia.

The campaign stresses the importance of planning ahead for visits, being respectful to each other, trail safety, and cleaning up trash.

“We launched these campaigns to encourage visitors and residents alike to work together to protect and preserve New Hampshire so that it’s here for future generations to enjoy. The safety and appearance of our state is critical to the continued growth in tourism,” said New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs Commissioner Taylor Caswell.

 

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