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July 02. 2013 9:57PM

Tourists to take to the state on the Fourth

From lounging on the beach to zip-lining in the North Country, out-of-state visitors are predicted to spend $128 million in New Hampshire over the next five days, starting today.

"We're booked through the weekend," said Chuck Rage, owner of the 50-unit Pelham Resort Hotel on Hampton Beach.

"At our hotel, they like to sit on the porch, the veranda and watch the show as we call it — all the characters going up and down the boardwalk," Rage said Tuesday.

At Bretton Woods Ski Area, openings remained this week for the three-hour canopy tour, which features nine zip lines covering more than a mile collectively.

"When you're up in the trees and under the cover of the leaves, folks don't even notice it's raining," said Alexa Bernotavicz, its assistant director of operations. Tickets run $110 per person, less for hotel guests.

Fourth of July is the state's most popular holiday for tourists, with 860,000 out-of-state visitors expected between today and Sunday, according to the state Division of Travel and Tourism Development. No year-over-year comparisons were available.

"It's number one and Labor Day is number two," said Tai Freligh, communications manager. "Columbus and Memorial go back and forth for third and fourth."

Having the Fourth of July fall on a Friday "would be ideal," Freligh said. "At least it's not a Wednesday. I think people are taking that Friday and possibly that Monday and making it a five-day weekend. People may be taking the whole week off."

For the entire summer, about 13.6 million visitors from out-of-state will come to New Hampshire, a 1 percent increase over last year. They are predicted to spend about $1.9 billion, up 2 percent, according to the Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State University, which does research for the state tourism division.

Many residents, visitors and tourist workers are hoping the clouds disappear this week.

"When the sun comes out, it's all going to be good," said Jack Mahany, assistant general manager at Story Land in Glen.

The rainy weather in June "absolutely affected the whole area. No question. It's all about the weather. When the sun shines, it's all great," Mahany said.

"The Fourth of July is our best-kept secret," Mahany said. "It's one of our slowest days of the year, the actual Fourth. The 3rd and 5th are great."

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Shaheen, D-N.H., met with local and national tourism business leaders at events in Portsmouth and Weirs Beach to promote the state's tourism. At both events, she was joined by Mike Fullerton from Brand USA, a public-private partnership the senator helped launch that claims responsibility for the country's first-ever, nationally coordinated tourism marketing effort.

"New Hampshire has so much to offer domestic and international travelers, and with Brand USA we finally have a private-public partnership with the resources to grow our travel section and bolster economic growth," Shaheen said in a statement.

Rage said 60 percent of his summer business was booked by February. Fourth of July week requires a four-night minimum, with many visitors from Quebec, upstate New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island renting rooms, he said.

Rage, who has owned the hotel since 1984, said people in the beginning would book two-week stays. Now, they sometimes make two or three shorter stays adding up to two weeks.

"If they leave for two weeks, they get backed up on their jobs," Rage said.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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