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As summer nears, a reminder to NH tourists: 'There's more than two or three places to hike or visit'

View south of Franconia Notch, from Cannon Mountain.
Dan Tuohy
View south of Franconia Notch, from Cannon Mountain.

Summer — New Hampshire’s biggest tourist season — is officially underway with Memorial Day. And state officials are expecting a slight increase in the number of tourists over last year, anticipating 4.3 million visitors through the summer.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said he’s projecting about a 5% increase in visitors and a 6.5% increase in spending compared to 2022, when summer spending peaked.

In particular, he said the state expects a jump in international travelers, as pandemic restrictions fade from view.

But a persistent challenge, Caswell said, is dealing with the popularity of certain destinations, like Franconia Notch or the Mount Washington Valley.

“One of the things that we continue to work on is dispersion,” he said, “and sort of demonstrating to people that there's more than just two or three places to hike or to visit in New Hampshire.”

Caswell said his office has been working with regional organizations to help them promote a wider range of destinations to new visitors. In the future, he’s also hoping technological solutions could help — like a system that could show when trailhead parking lots are full and direct people to other places nearby.

As climate change lengthens the warm season in New Hampshire, Caswell said the month of September is increasingly an extension of summer. And as the season for winter activities like skiing shrinks as a result of climate change, warm-weather tourism holds additional significance for some businesses.

“A lot of our outdoor recreation operators, including ski areas and others, are looking for ways to adapt to climate change and offering, like, mountain biking or fat biking or ziplining, other things they can do with their properties to generate income,” he said.

Caswell said the state is also working to educate visitors on how to spend time outdoors safely, including increasing awareness around heat exposure.

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