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August 6, 2021

$3M boost for Maine tourism may retain over 1,000 jobs, help in recovery

people with ice cream Photo / Laurie Schreiber A new injection of federal funds aims to boost Maine’s tourism promotion and marketing. Here, visitors in May flock to an ice cream shop in downtown Bar Harbor.

With travelers looking for open spaces and outdoor dining, Maine’s hospitality industry has been hot this year.

But it is still in recovery mode after being battered by a year of pandemic restrictions and lost business, combined with staff shortages and the continued closure of the border with Canada.

Now a $2.4 million federal investment combined with a $600,000 state match is expected to boost Maine’s tourism promotion and marketing and help retain 1,225 jobs.

The federal money is coming from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in the form of a grant to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

The grant will enable the Maine Office of Tourism to implement a comprehensive tourism and marketing program aimed at increasing tourist visits to Maine and spurring the economic recovery of hospitality businesses statewide, according to a news release.

“Maine will use these federal funds to support the recovery of our tourism and hospitality businesses at the foundation of our economy and to ensure that our state is known globally as a world-class destination,” Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism, said in the release.

The strategic marketing campaign will position the state as a safe, four-season destination. Marketing projects will include conducting market research and analysis, developing and deploying multi-media advertising to geographically targeted audiences, and securing a qualified consultant to create a statewide sustainable tourism strategy to enhance visitor distribution statewide, encourage all-season visitation and assist destinations with the tools to create travel experiences that align with the desires of both visitors and residents

“Through this investment, Maine will implement a comprehensive tourism marketing and promotion program designed to position the state as a safe, premier, four-season vacation destination,” Linda Cruz-Carnall, director of EDA’s Philadelphia regional office, said in a separate release.

The investment will support statewide tourism recovery efforts through the retention of critical tourism and hospitality jobs and the restoration of visitor spending, said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. 

Despite the pandemic, the tourism and hospitality industry ensured that Maine remained a world-class destination, said Gov. Janet Mills. She said the latest injection of funds will support Maine’s short- and long-term economic recovery.

“We welcome this investment, which will support Maine jobs by assisting with the development of a comprehensive marketing strategy to encourage visitors to enjoy year-round recreational opportunities in our state,” U.S. Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Jared Golden, D-2nd District, said in a joint statement. 

The project is funded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which provided EDA with $1.5 billion for economic assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus. 

In a Maine Tourism Association survey conducted last month, 40% of MTA members responding to a survey said business was better this year than in a normal year, while 47% said business volume was between 75% and 100% of normal. Some 5% said business was worse than usual over the holiday weekend.

Even with this summer’s surge in business, it’s estimated the industry is leaving millions in tourism dollars on the table because of staffing shortages.

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