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January 12, 2021

Park performance, part 2: With fewer out-of-staters, Acadia sees decline in visits

File photo / Laurie Schreiber Acadia National Park, one of its groomed carriage trails seen here in a pre-pandemic year, saw an uptick in visitors in December.

Not surprisingly, visitation to Acadia National Park was down for 2020, compared with 2019. 

But perhaps not as much as one might have expected.

According to preliminary figures from the National Park Service, visitation declined 22%, from 3.4 million in 2019 to 2.6 million in 2020.

Overall, limits on out-of-state visitors, including the state's mandated two-week quarantine through part of the summer, slowed Maine's tourism economy. 

However, the month of December saw a steep visitor increase of 65%, from 12,865 in December 2019 to 21,260 last month.

That likely reflected a trend of people seeking more outdoor activity due to the pandemic and the Maine Office of Tourism’s latest winter marketing campaign, which leverages the theme of Maine’s outdoor recreation and wide-open spaces as a safe and healthy environment and a stress-reliever during the pandemic.

At the agency’s virtual quarterly tourism stakeholders meeting in October, Darci Bandi-Schedler, an account advisor with Milwaukee marketing agency BVK, which is working with the agency on the winter promotion, said that the colder months will result in more people looking at ways to escape and feel refreshed.

Over the summer, once Acadia opened up after the state shutdown, traffic congestion at the park’s most popular spots paralleled visitation in previous years.

However, the congestion was exacerbated by the lack of the free transportation shuttle service, the Island Explorer, which didn’t run in 2020 due to the pandemic. Island Explorer operations for 2021 are uncertain.

Commercial and concession buses also didn’t run in 2020. 

In 2019, the Explorer and commercial and concession buses brought nearly 320,000 people to the park.

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