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The Azira Team

3 mins read

How leaf peeping (and movie tourism) drive autumnal visitors to New England destinations

 

It’s that time of year. Pumpkin spice is in the air, days are getting shorter, and leaves have started to change – at least in some parts of the U.S. And with that changing foliage comes the tourism phenomenon known as “leaf peeping,” where city dwellers head out to more forested areas to witness the colorful sights.

 

What kind of impact does leaf peeping have on local tourism? Azira took a look at three popular leaf peeping destinations in New England to see the impact. New England is one of the first areas in the U.S. to experience fall foliage – all of these destinations experienced their peak fall foliage in the first half of October:

 

White Mountain National
Forest,
New Hampshire

Salem,
Massachusetts

Bay Harbor,
Maine

For each of the destinations, we compared average daily tourist visitation in the first half of October compared to September. Tourists were defined as anyone who traveled at least 25 miles from home to the destination.

All destinations saw a lift during peak foliage

All three destinations saw a clear lift in visitors, but at different levels.

Lift in Daily Visitors (October vs. September)

In addition to the overall lift in the number of tourists visiting, people were also traveling from farther away to these foliage-friendly destinations

Lift in Median Distance Traveled (October vs. September)

One factor that could be impacting the level of foliage-driven tourism is proximity to Boston, the largest city in New England. The three destinations show a very clear relationship between the closeness to Boston and the boost in visitors overall, as well as the visitors specifically from Boston.

The Impact of Boston on Visitation

One factor that could be impacting the level of foliage-driven tourism is proximity to Boston, the largest city in New England. The three destinations show a very clear relationship between the closeness to Boston and the boost in visitors overall, as well as the visitors specifically from Boston.

Salem has more than just Fall foliage going on

The town of Salem, Massachusetts, famous for the Salem Witch Trials, saw the greatest lift in both visitors and distance traveled in October. This increase is probably only partly due to fall foliage, as October brings additional witchy tourism to Salem. This year was especially big for Salem’s tourism – on September 30th was the release of Hocus Pocus 2, the long-awaited sequel to 1993’s Hocus Pocus. The new film broke streaming records and drove fresh interest in the cult classic. Both films take place in Downtown Salem, where tour operators have jumped on the opportunity to offer walking tours tied to the film.

Human movement data confirms that peak fall foliage aligns with significant lift in visitors to key destinations. It can also show the impact pop culture – movies, television, and more – can have on destinations.

Methodology

Azira studied visitors to Bar Harbor, Salem and White Mountain National Forest, for September 1-October 23, 2022. Reports used include Estimated Visitors, Common Evening Location, and Demographics reports.

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