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October 26, 2020

Mixed results for tourism industry on recent holiday weekend

The recent long weekend brought Maine’s hospitality industry mixed returns.

Maine Tourism Association said a survey of its members showed that many were still affected by the pandemic, with more than a third of the respondents saying business was down 50% compared to a year ago.

“This is just a snapshot in time from one survey but it’s very telling,” said Tony Cameron, CEO of the Maine Tourism Association. “August was a great month by 2020 standards due to the weather and the lifting of travel restrictions on visitors from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. This holiday weekend improved business for those few days but it is a long way from normal. The people working in tourism are still struggling greatly.”

The three-day Indigenous People’s Day weekend is considered a key segment of the fall shoulder season, with leaf-peepers and others fleeing cities to take advantage of the last mild days of the season. 

Bar Harbor and Acadia area establishments were nearly full, although capacity for most businesses was reduced. Some areas of Aroostook County are faring well with in-state travelers. In addition to Mainers, most travelers are from Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, with the rest of the New England states making up the bulk of visitors.

Hoteliers and others in the industry said challenges this year were made worse by difficulty meeting normal staffing levels. 
The lack of H2B and J1 visa workers has hurt lodging properties in particular, the tourism association said. Also, “the additional COVID protocols and visitors who require more attention due to the regulations and precautions contributes to an increased workload for the lean staff,” the association said in a news release. 

In 2019, the tourism industry in Maine supported over 116,000 workers, generated $9.7 billion in total sales, and brought in nearly $650 million in tax dollars to the state coffers.  

A forecast by the University of Southern Maine projected tourism revenue to be off $1.7 billion this year. 

The industry expects to continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic next year.

“We will feel the impact for months, if not years, to come,” Cameron said. “The effects of being closed in the spring and having such limited capacity and visitors through the summer will catch up. Some businesses are persevering this year but may not be open next year.”

The Maine Tourism Association represents members statewide that provide traditional tourism interests such as lodging, restaurants, camps and campgrounds, retail establishments, and cultural and heritage attractions. MTA also operates the seven state Visitor Information Centers and produces the state’s official travel planner, Maine Invites You.

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