Four days ago, StateImpact, along with other New Hampshire media outlets, was questioning how many tourists–and how much tourism money–the state would bring in over the Labor Day weekend. After all, visitors and residents alike have been confused about the status some of New Hampshire’s remoter roads that are key to the tourism industry. Even Division of Travel and Tourism spokesman Tai Freligh told StateImpact, ““Last year, we estimated that there’d be about 530 thousand visitors to New Hampshire, and they would spend about 71 million [dollars]…This year is kind of a different situation. We’re not really looking at numbers, because everything’s kind of up in the air.”
It seems reports of a dead Labor Day weekend have been exaggerated.
Today, StateImpact spoke with Travel and Tourism Director Lori Harnois. And while FEMA was still scouring the state for infrastructure damage, Harnois said New Hampshire did brisk business. “Preliminary toll figures are showing that we had a four percent increase over last year, for the four-day holiday weekend. And just with Friday travel alone, it was up over 12 percent, so that was very encouraging,” Harnois said.
Some of the high-traffic areas were to be expected. For example, Harnois told StateImpact that the Seacoast brought in a number of tourists, “We’ve heard from the Hampton Beach area that it was actually one of the best Labor Days that they had ever seen.”
But here’s where it gets a bit stranger. Remember all those reports of road and bridge washouts in the White Mountains, and people trapped in campgrounds? Harnois said it didn’t seem to scare away visitors, “We reached out to [the White Mountain Tourism Association and Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce]…and they said that the early part of the…weekend was very busy, that attraction and visitor center counts were up. It was just a really warm feeling to know that many folks were still traveling after hearing some of the devastation that had happened with Hurricane Irene.”
One reason for the increased tourism, Harnois believes, is the collaboration between the state’s Department of Transportation and Travel and Tourism. The slogan “New Hampshire Is Open For Business,” for example, adorned many lighted signs along the state’s highways and byways. DOT also provided a number of online maps showing alternate routes to major tourism destinations.
Harnois said that while increased visitor accounts might mean increased spending in New Hampshire, Travel and Tourism won’t have final figures for a couple of months.