Business owners optimistic about projections for this summer

Union Leader Correspondent
May 22. 2014 8:40PM
Kegan Donahue, 20, of Salem sets up the deck at the Town Docks restaurant in Meredith on Thursday. (DAN SEUFERT/Union Leader Correspondent)

MEREDITH — The staff at the Town Docks restaurant at the edge of Lake Winnipesaukee were milling about Thursday, preparing for the hordes of tourists arriving Friday for Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer season.

“I’m really psyched, I can’t wait for summer,” said Charlotte Beal of Center Harbor, a Town Docks employee who said she’s had enough of the cool spring days.

The buzz among businesses in the state is that the holiday weekend will be very busy, and projections for the summer are looking strong as well, said Tai Freligh, communications manager for the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism Development.

“The nice thing about Memorial Day Weekend is it opens everything up for the first time; it’s like (the state’s) grand opening,” Freligh said. “But we’ve already seen a lot of people here in May. If the weather cooperates, the summer looks great.”

The perception for many is that residents and tourists suffered from “cabin fever” in the past few months.

“I think people really want to get out after that long winter,” said Sue Cerutti of the Meredith Area Chamber of Commerce, who said her town has already seen lots of summer visitors.

Seacoast tourism businesses, which see more day-trippers than their counterparts, say they’ve had a lot of visitors coming to the ocean for the day so far.

“There’s a lot to do here, and people have been coming out on the nice days,” said Doc Noel, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce. “The weekend looks good, though as always, it all depends on the weather.”

State tourism officials announced this week that a study by the Institute for New Hampshire Studies has predicted that about 560,000 out-of-state visitors will arrive during the Memorial Day weekend. Once here, they will spend about $89 million, up by 2 percent from a year ago.

The institute, based at Plymouth State University, came up with the estimate based on research into tourist trends, gas prices, and other factors, Freligh said. It also predicted that most of the visitors will be from New England or New York, and the number of visitors from Canada will also likely be higher than last year.

Businesses in the Lakes Region were feeling positive about the weekend and the coming summer. Motels and restaurant owners said that after a cool, slow April, the warmer May days brought lots of smiling, money-spending people out of their homes.

“We’ve been very busy since the start of May, so this weekend is just a continuation of what has been a great start to the season,” said Amanda Abelmann, a manager at Town Docks.

Meanwhile, boat dealers in the Lakes Region say sales are up.

“Sales have been through the roof for us and all the boat dealers. Some of the models are sold out already, though we can always find a good boat for our customers,” said Julie Crawford of Winnisquam Marine.

“It’s obvious from what we’re seeing that this is going to be a good summer,” said Cerutti.Seacoast tourism officials are less sure about the summer, and are a bit disappointed at the weather forecast, which predicts rain Saturday.

“The summer, for us, is hard to tell in advance because everything here is so dependent on the weather,” Noel said. “If you could tell me we’ll have a really nice summer weather-wise, I’d say we’re going to do great.”

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