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Updated: January 24, 2022

Staffing shortages, pandemic continue to cloud Maine's tourism outlook

sign on sidewalk File photo / Laurie Schreiber As this sign seems to suggest, Maine's tourism businesses see mixed signs for the industry in the year ahead. Staffing shortages and the pandemic may continue to hamper a recovery.

After a mixed holiday season, Maine’s tourism industry sees the pandemic and hiring struggles still hampering growth for the spring, with many businesses curtailing hours of operation, according to a recent survey by the Maine Tourism Association.

When asked about the December holiday season, 32% of members responding to the survey said business was better than a normal year like 2019, while 19% said business was normal. Some 26% said business was worse than that of past holiday periods.

The number of respondents who said that the COVID variants affected their holiday business was split almost evenly with 49% saying yes and 51% saying no.

The Maine Tourism Association represents about 1,500 members. The survey generated a roughly 10% response rate, the trade group said. The responses came from across the state, but most came from the midcoast and islands, greater Portland and Casco Bay, and the beaches.

For the remainder of the winter, only 11% of respondents predicted that business would be better than a pre-pandemic year like 2019, while 38% said they expected it would be the same and 30% think business will be worse than 2019.

Going forward, just over one-half of respondents said they are planning on reducing hours or days of operations over the next three months that they normally wouldn’t during this time period. Those doing so could choose more than one answer as to why they plan to make such reductions: 32% cited staff shortages, 34% cited less business due to COVID, and 15% pointed to supply chain problems.

Nearly half of respondents, 49%, are predicting that the spring season running April through June will be the same as the pre-pandemic year, while 23% say it will be better. Another 26% believe spring business will be worse.

“It’s great to see that tourism businesses had a good holiday season and are largely optimistic about the next few months. A strong winter and spring will provide a good foundation heading into the summer. As our businesses work hard to recover from 2020’s losses, the pandemic and workforce challenges are still hampering their path to full recovery,” said Maine Tourism Association’s CEO Tony Cameron.

“A successful and sustainable tourism industry benefits not just tourism businesses themselves but everyone in Maine due to the industry’s strong impact on Maine’s economy.”

Incorporated in 1922, the Maine Tourism Association is the state’s largest advocate for all tourism-related businesses. Its members include hotels and inns, restaurants, camps, campgrounds, retail, outdoor recreation, guides, tour operators, amusements and cultural and historical attractions.

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