CONCORD, N.H. — State tourism officials are forecasting all-time highs for visitors and spending this fall season, with a good chunk of the travel occurring over Columbus Day weekend.

The New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism is expecting 9.8 million visitors to spend $1.5 billion throughout the fall. The figures represent increases of 4 percent in visitors and 5 percent in money spent over last fall.

Travel researchers said Thursday about 710,000 visitors are projected to spend more than $100 million over Columbus Day weekend, a 5 percent increase in both categories over a year ago. The division says scenic drives and outdoor recreation will remain the most popular activities, followed by visiting farm stands, orchards, festivals and family.

“The continued growth in visitation and spending underscores tourism as a critical driver of New Hampshire’s economic infrastructure,” said Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the state Department of Business and Economic Affairs.

The division has refreshed its foliage tracker on VisitNH.gov, which uses a sliding bar to view the approximate color change weekly and a map content box to view updated foliage reports, photo opportunities and scenic drives.

The division said the extreme heat that gripped northern New England in the last few days has slowed the progression of fall foliage in much of the state but some areas are showing color, particularly the Great North Woods region, which has changed over about 35 percent.

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