New Hampshire travel, hospitality sectors look to vaccines, loyal patrons to get through winter

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New Hampshire hospitality and tourism businesses are counting on an efficient rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations to help draw the numbers of patrons they enjoyed before the pandemic.

“It’s all about vaccinations and consumer confidence to get everything going again,” Mike Somers, chief executive officer of the New Hampshire Restaurant and Lodging Association (NHRLA), told The Center Square. “And that’s universal in tourism across the country; consumer confidence and being willing to travel.”

New Hampshire hotel occupancy rates have fared better than the rest of the country and other New England states, but consumer confidence is still quite low.

“Right now, this has been the toughest stretch of this entire effort,” Somers said. “We are encouraging folks to support local businesses, to dine in restaurants, all those little things, to help them survive. Every little bit is going to be crucial to these folks making it through.”

The NHRLA has launched an initiative called the Rally for New Hampshire Restaurants to help educate the public.

Businesses expect the tide to more fully turn once vaccinations can be more widely distributed.

“With vaccinations comes easing of restrictions that allows us to fill our hotels and restaurants and get back to some resemblance of normal like we had prior to the pandemic,” Somers said.

Opening the border with Canada also will be key.

“Canadians are a huge part of North Country business, which was a huge drawback for the industry,” Somers said.

While a variety of outdoor activities have continued to draw people to New Hampshire, canceled events mean visitors to cultural attractions are fewer in numbers.

“Last year’s visitors were from driving markets because we didn’t have travel restrictions on them,” Somers said.

Corporate business at hotels and restaurants, which has mostly stopped, needs to come back as well.

“It’s going to be all about vaccinations,” Somers said. “The faster we can get folks vaccinated, that’s the important thing.”

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