Visitors to Maine return in greater numbers in August but won’t offset earlier losses

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After a spring and summer with far fewer tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions and closures, hospitality businesses hope to recoup some of those losses with a better autumn season.

Official data isn’t available yet, but anecdotal information indicates after a very slow start, the number of visitors to Maine improved in August.

Greg Dugal of HospitalityMaine, a trade group for hotels and restaurants statewide, told the Bangor Daily News the August uptick won’t make up for the downturn earlier in the year.

At lodging businesses in Portland, Dugal said taxable sales were down more than 90% in April and May, and close to that figure in June. Portland’s restaurants saw taxable sales decline by 74% in April, 67% in May, and 57% in June.

Maine has had travel restrictions on residents of Massachusetts, who usually account for a large percentage of the state’s visitors.

At Acadia National Park, a major draw for Maine’s tourism industry, 2020 visitor numbers through the end of July were down 40% compared to last year, despite numbers increasing by roughly 100% from June to July.

David Woodside, president of Acadia Corp., told the News that local merchants saw a “a major rebound” in August after little activity earlier in the summer.

He noted the continued lack of cruise ships will be painful for local retailers this fall.

“In their absence, we are expecting sales to be off by 50 to 60 percent compared to 2019,” Woodside said.

Still, Maine’s rural settings continue to be a draw, with agents for weekly rental properties reporting a busy summer even with many cancellations.

The favorable warm and dry weather also has been helpful, Dugal said, allowing more restaurants to pivot to outdoor dining, which many will continue well into this fall.

The weather will play a role in the number of visitors to Maine over the next several weeks, when many arrive to take in the fall foliage.

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