N.H., Maine prepare for 2nd largest business holiday

Catherine Davidson of Maryland chows down on as many lobster as she can in 10 minutes during a crustacean eating contest in Portland this summer. Maine is preparing for its second-busiest tourism weekend.
Catherine Davidson of Maryland chows down on as many lobster as she can in 10 minutes during a crustacean eating contest in Portland this summer. Maine is preparing for its second-busiest tourism weekend. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 31, 2012, at 6:46 a.m.

New Hampshire is expecting to welcome 541,000 out-of state visitors for the Labor Day weekend who are anticipated to spend roughly $76.5 million over the course of their stay, according to the Institute for New Hampshire Studies. In Maine, the Greater York Chamber of Commerce is expecting a strong summer to continue through the weekend.

“Although the summer seemed to get off to a slow start, by mid July business was booming. August has been exceptionally busy with visitors here at the Chamber of Commerce. We are happy to report that the lodging facilities have been full more often than not,” Holly Roberts, executive director for the chamber, told Foster’s.

The View Point Hotel in York reports business being up by 30 percent this summer, and Labor Day is traditionally a big weekend for tourism in the area, so hotels will likely book to capacity.

Like other destination points have declared, tourism volume is weather-dependent in York as well.

“If the sun is shining the beaches will be packed with people enjoying it for that one last weekend before school starts,” Roberts said.

Farmer’s markets in the York area have fared well with more visitors to the area during summer months hosting parties and get-togethers.

“I would say the overall report for the summer so far has been a success even after a slower start than usual,” Roberts said.

Visitor numbers are up about 2 percent from last year and attributed to traditionally important markets in New England, New York State, and eastern Canada, the state Division of Travel and Tourism says.

AAA Travel defines the weekend as beginning Thursday, Aug. 30, and it’s these type of extended holidays that have helped people extend their travel and spending over the course of the summer.

In Kittery, Maine, the Kittery Outlets and other retail businesses have end of season sales happening. It is also the kick-off weekend for September Fest at Kittery Trading Post.

“I think it was an excellent summer,” Tai Fraleigh, communications manager for N.H. Division of Travel and Tourism, said.

Fraleigh said summer began a little early this year with nice beach weather and even some golf courses opening earlier than normal throughout the state and those things extended summer for the people taking advantage.

“The hiking, swimming, boating and the outdoors stuff was great this summer,” he said.

At Hampton Beach, the weather always plays a critical role in the volume of guests making their way to the shops and sand.

“So goes the weather, so goes the beach,” Doc Noel, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, said.

He said local business has been good and the merchants have been happy. Hotels have been filling up regularly and are expected to fill up by Labor Day as well.

“The hotels are about 85 percent full,” he told Foster’s on Wednesday. ‘They will fill for the weekend,” he said.

For the state, Labor Day is the second busiest holiday with numbers just under those for the Fourth of July weekend. For residents and visitors alike, it’s the last weekend before fall arrives.

“New Hampshire will be bustling with activities, from craft fairs and fireworks to farmer’s markets and concerts,” Lori Harnois, Director of the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism said in a statement issued by the department. “The Labor Day Weekend is our second busiest holiday weekend of the year after the Fourth of July,” she added.

“It’s a lot of people trying to get in that last swim or hike,” Fraleigh said.

Businesses have seen a steady flow of Canadian shoppers throughout the summer months and that trend is expected to continue through the holiday due to tax-free shopping and new higher duty-free limits on purchases made in the U.S.

The proximity to many New England points is favorable for the beach where within 45 minutes there are several million people planning a potential visit.

Noel said since it’s not a big haul for many day-trippers it doesn’t’ affect gas economy as much as other destinations would.

“As long as the weather is good,” he said.

Weather played a huge role in the success of other businesses around the Seacoast who rely on the hot temperatures to bring in crowds.

At Water Country Water Park, the hot summer season of 2012 brought in droves of people looking to cool off in the water.

“It was a really good season. It was really good weather plus the addition of a new attraction,” said Danielle Barry, marketing manager for the park for the last three seasons.

Labor Day will end the season at the water park, which opened June 9 this year. Between 300,000 and 350,000 people took advantage of the something-for-everyone park.

The wave pool and lazy river accommodated those seeking a slower paced attraction, while the new Dr. Von Dar’s Tunnel of Terror delighted those looking for a thrill.

“We really have something for everybody from adventures to lazy attractions,” Barry said.

And the sluggish economy worked in the park’s favor, too.

“I think with the gas prices the way they were there were a lot more people doing the staycations, with beaches and local parks,” Barry said.

Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce tourism manager Valerie Rochon said overall, the summer has been a “mixed bag” as far as spending goes.

“We know that some of the restaurants did really, really well. We know that some of the retailers were up and down,” she said.

While there may be more confidence in the economy and its strength, plenty of people still aren’t showing that confidence with their wallets, she said.

But Labor Day is expected to be a busy weekend for the city as it normally brings in a large number of people.

“I do know that it’s pretty full for the weekend,” Rochon said.

This time of year it’s normally the outdoor venues like the decks and dining that attract patrons. There are five new restaurants in the city with al fresco dining, too.

“The outdoor scene is really becoming a lot more lively,” she said adding that anything outdoors with the type of weather this summer has seen is really popular.

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©2012 the Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)

Visit the Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.) at www.fosters.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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