By DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader
An improving economy and the promise of good weather could combine to create one of the busiest Labor Day weekends in recent years, according to the Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State University, which has maintained the state’s tourism database and conducted tourism research since 1990.
The institute is predicting the three-day weekend will bring 545,000 out-of-state visitors to New Hampshire, up 1 percent from last year, and they’ll spend $78 million, up 2 percent.
“Historically, Labor Day has been the second-busiest travel weekend in New Hampshire after the Fourth of July, and the upcoming Labor Day weekend promises to continue that tradition,” said Mark Okrant, director of the institute.
He said most of the visitors will be from traditionally important markets in New England, New York State and Eastern Canada.
Resorts, hotels, motels and campgrounds are seeing heavy traffic throughout the state. Many visitors also will be staying with friends and relatives or at second homes, he said.
A similar share of visitors compared to recent years will be taking day trips from adjacent states, especially Massachusetts.
“Growth in this sector will be slightly constrained by the disappointment that gasoline prices have not dropped appreciably,” Okrant said.
The institute’s predictions are based on the regional economy, gas prices, Canadian travel intentions and past travel trends. “Then they examine what the U.S. Travel Association is saying about consumer confidence, larger scale travel intentions, plus a few other factors,” said Tai Freligh, communications manager at the state Division of Travel and Tourism Development.
“Our great outdoors will be bustling with activity,” said Lori Harnois, director of the division. “Many of our visitors and residents will be looking to get one last beach or boating trip in before summer ends.”
A spokesperson for the AAA-Northern New England said earlier in the week that more people are expected to travel this Labor Day weekend than any since 2008, with automobile traffic expected to be up 4.5 percent over the same weekend last year.
The institute’s prediction of only 1 percent increase in visitors over last year could prove to be conservative.
“The INHS has always taken a conservative stance on these forecasts,” Freligh said.