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NH predicts increase in fall tourists, spending

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire is expecting more tourists to spend more money in the state this fall.

The state Division of Travel and Tourism said Tuesday that favorable economic conditions and lower gas prices could mean a record fall season. Officials expect about 7.8 million visitors by the end of November, which is about 2 percent more than last year. Spending is expected to increase by about 3 percent to more than $1 billion.

Most of the fall visitors to New Hampshire come from other New England states, the mid-Atlantic states and Canada, though fall has the largest number of visitors from outside the region. The projections are developed by the Institute for New Hampshire Studies based on factors that include spending patterns, gas prices, weather and the previous year's activity.

Also on Tuesday, the state released its first foliage report of the season. According to the report, far northern New Hampshire is at about 25 percent of peak color, with lots of red and orange maple trees in Clarksville and Pittsburg. Some leaves have changed in the White Mountains region as well, but most of the rest of the state is still green. The report describes Franconia Notch State Park as a "patchwork quilt of reds, yellows and greens," and says there are bright red leaves mixed with green along the Kancamagus Highway.