WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) – Tourists coming to see New England’s fall foliage have begun to arrive despite – or perhaps because of – the weak economy.

Janet Serra of the Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau said visitors are spending less money and looking for bargains. She says they are not canceling reservations.

The so-called leaf peepers each spend on average $600 to $700 a day in Connecticut. That includes meals, lodging, gambling, shopping, transportation and recreation.

For example, Lynn Baker of the Litchfield Inn says 65 percent of rooms are booked for the month, about the same as last year. She says many visitors who fill the rooms are showing up at the last minute. More are Europeans who are enjoying the benefits of a favorable exchange rate.

“A lot of people are watching their finances and cutting back,” Baker said. “This is one of the industries that will feel it.”

Serra said visitors from Connecticut, New Jersey and New York might not be spending as much, “but they see it as an entitlement to be able to escape.”

Dan Bolognani, director of sales and marketing, at the Interlaken Inn in Salisbury, said room rates starting in the low $200 range are attracting repeat customers who find a way to travel on the cheap.

“They aren’t staying as long or spending as much but they are still getting away,” Bolognani.

And even when the economy may not be causing problems, nature is. Visitors will find some foliage colors dulled by a fungal disease caused by wet conditions during one of the rainiest summers on record.

“It’s a little dicey,” Bognani said.


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