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February 21, 2019

Fall day trips to Maine up, but overnight visitors are spending more

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
A harbor scene in Ogunquit.

Fall day trips in Maine in 2018 were up significantly from 2017, according to a report from the Maine State Office of Tourism.

Overnight visitors, however, spent more money in 2018, while day visitors spend slightly less than the previous year.

The report, compiled by dpa of Portland, surveyed 1,226 travelers in Maine from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30. The report was released in January. Those surveyed included both people traveling for pleasure and those traveling for business, 726 of whom were on overnight trips and 500 on day trips.

They also said they'd come back — 76% of overnight visitors and 85% of day visitors said they'd return, with 82% of the day visitors who said they'd return saying they'd probably stay overnight.

Overall, an estimated 12.6 million people visited the state in the fall, up 2.1%. Of those, 7.2 million stayed overnight and 5.4 million visited for the day. While the overnight figure showed an increase of 0.5% from the year before, day trips were up 6.1%.

Of the day-trippers surveyed, 68% were from outside of Maine, with the largest representation, 37%, from Massachusetts. The average age of overnight visitors was 40; daytime visitor after age was 43.

Where they came from

  • 24% of overnight visitors were in Maine for the first time; 7% of day visitors were.
  • 49% of overnight visitors were from New England, 34% from the Mid-Atlantic states and 17% were from Canada.
  • Of the U.S. overnight visitors, 49% were from New England, down from 61% in 2017; 34% were from the Mid-Atlantic, up from 26% in 2017;
  • 91% of day visitors were from the U.S., primarily from Maine and Massachusetts; 9% were from Canada.

Where they went

The study also breaks down where people go and what demographic likes which region of the state.

  • 23% of overnight visitors' primary destination was the southern Maine beaches (primarily York County). The beaches were most popular with repeat visitors, U.S. residents, leisure travelers and those making less than $150,000.
  • 17% of overnight visitors went to the Maine Highlands (primarily Penobscot County, including Baxter State Park). This region was most popular with Canadians, first-timer travelers, business travelers and those younger than 45.
  • 15% went Down East, including the Acadia region.
  • 12% visited the Mid-Coast (Brunswick to Penobscot Bay);
  • 10% visited the greater Portland and Casco Bay area. The Portland area was most popular with those who had no children on the trip.
  • 9% visited the western Maine lakes and mountains (Oxford, Androscoggin and Franklin counties);
  • 7% went to the Kennebec and Moose River valleys (Kennebec and Somerset counties);
  • 5% to Aroostook County.

Who the day visitors are and where they went

Day visitors also liked the southern beaches the most, with 36% of visitors going there. The Portland, Casco Bay area was second most popular with day visitors.

Most other regions held steady on fall day visitors, but day visitors to the Portland, Casco Bay area dropped from 14% in 2017 to 6% in 2018.

The southern beaches, with 36% of day visitors, attracted New England residents, leisure travelers, those traveling without children, and those with a household income of $75,000 or more.

The midcoast, with 12% of day visitors, attracted Maine residents and those traveling without children.

The Maine Highlands, with 11% of day visitors, attracted Maine residents, Canadians, first-time visitors, those under 55 years old and those traveling with children.

The western lakes and mountains, with 10% of day visitors, attracted those traveling with children and U.S. residents.

The Kennebec and Moose River valleys, with 6% of day visitors primarily attracted Maine residents.

Aroostook County, with 5% of day visitors, attracted Canadians.

The Downeast and the Acadia region attracted 12% of day visitors.

What they do when they're here

Once people got to Maine, the majority were interested in eating, drinking and shopping, though those who were interested in touring and sightseeing rose sharply from 2017.

To a lesser extent, they also took part in outdoor activities, history and culture and children's and family activities. All activities, from eating and drinking to getting on the water, showed an increase in fall of 2018.

  • 65% of those surveyed said they were interested in food/beverage/culinary activities, up from 60% in 2017. Those with a household income of more than $150,000 were more interested in this (78%) than those who made less (63%) and U.S. residents (67%) were more interested than those from out of the country (57%).
  • 54% said they were interested in shopping, up from 51% from 2017. Those who were staying overnight in paid accommodations (56%) were more interested in shopping than those who weren't (46%).
  • 51% were touring or sightseeing, up from 44% in 2017. Those who were staying in paid accommodations (54%) were more interested in this than those who weren't (43%).
  • 38% took part in active non-water outdoor activities, up from 33% in 2017. These were most popular with U.S. residents (40% vs. 28%), leisure travelers (40% vs. 31%) and those traveling with children (46% vs. 35%).
  • 33% were looking for history or culture, up from 26% in 2017. This was most popular with business travelers (45% vs. 30%) and those visiting from outside New England (35% vs. 28%).
  • 28% engaged in family fun and children's activities, up from 24% in 2017. No surprise that this was favored by those traveling with children (65% vs.14%), as well as leisure travelers (30% vs. 21%), those with unpaid accommodations (36% vs. 25%), travelers under the age of 45 (32% vs. 19%) and U.S. residents (30% vs. 21%).
  • 21% engaged in water outdoor activities, up from 16% in 2017. This was favored by U.S. residents (23% vs.13%).
  • Outdoor activities, when combined,were 48%, up from 41% the year before.
  • Day visitors generally followed the same patterns, but with more interested in family and children's activities (29%) and fewer interested in history and culture (15%).
  • 40% engaged in both indoor and outdoor activities.

Some 70% of overnight visitors stayed at paid accommodations, with business travelers, Canadians and first-time visitors the most likely to pay.

  • 48% stayed at a hotel, motel or resort, up from 47% in 2017;
  • 10% stayed in a rented cabin, cottage or condo, up from 6% in 2017;
  • 9% stayed at an inn or bed and breakfast, up from 7% in 2017.
  • The number who camped or stayed at an RV park remained steady -- 2%.
  • The average length of stay was 3.3 nights.

Overnight visitors who spent money spent the most on lodging, with food a distant second. The studies figures reflect what was spent per party, and don't reflect those who spent nothing in the category:

  • The average lodging expenditure was $501, up from $436 in 2017; 79% of overnight visitors reported spending money on lodging.
  • Food accounted for $242 of what an overnight visitor spent, up from $199 in 2017; 93% reported spending in this category.
  • Retail spending was $227, up from $198; 75% reported spending in this category.
  • Transportation was $148 up from $113; 90% reported spending in this category.
  • Recreation spending was $131, up from $104; 50% reported spending in this category.

While the amounts day visitors spend in 2018 didn't differ much from 2017, what they spent their money on differed greatly from overnight visitors, with shopping being where most of the money went.

Day visitors spend an average $136 on retail, up from $134 in 2017; 60% of visitors spent in this category.

Food accounted for $126, down from $127 in 2017; 96% reported spending in this category.

Transportation costs were $72, down from $75 in 2017; 96% reported spending in this category.

Recreation accounted for $73 of day-tripper spending, down from $79 in 2017; 45% of those visiting for the day spent on recreation.

The majority of overnight and day visitors said their exceeded their expectations, with friendliness of the people getting the highest marks and availability of fine dining the lowest.

64% of overnight visitors said their expectations were exceeded, with 40% saying "far exceeded" and 24% saying "somewhat."

62% of day visitors said expectations were exceeded, with 35% saying they were far exceeded and 27% saying somewhat.

Both gave high marks to friendliness of people, with 60% of overnight visitors saying it was at the top of their list and 55% of day visitors saying so.

Overnight visitors also liked "welcoming locals who make visitors feel comfortable" (58%) and "authentic communities with their own individual personalities (53%).

Day visitors liked "distinctive, genuine and unique experiences" as well as welcoming locals (both 52%).

At the bottom of both lists were dining choices: Overnight visitors said availability of family dining (46%), availability of lodging (47%) and availability of fine dining (45%) were the biggest negatives. Day visitors ranked lowest selection of family venues (47%), availability of family dining(43%) and availability of fine dining (39%) were the biggest negatives.

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