Survey shows 69% feel that tourism will do significantly better this year although reservations are still lagging behind 2019 numbers.
HALLOWELL – The Maine Tourism Association (MTA) recently polled its members about their perspective on the upcoming summer tourism season, visitor concerns and questions, and how the pandemic is affecting their business decisions. According to MTA Chief Executive Officer Tony Cameron, members responding to the survey were optimistic that their business and tourism in Maine were on the road to recovery, and that this year’s spring and summer season would be far better than 2020.
“It is good see such positive attitudes about the coming season,” Cameron said. “We need a strong recovery and this is going to be a critical year for the long-term health of Maine’s tourism industry. When tourism is strong, more Maine people are put to work, and businesses buy more local products and services so Maine’s farmers, fishermen, operators of wineries and breweries, contractors, landscapers, and others benefit.”
Of all those responding to the survey, 69% were optimistic the tourism in Maine will do significantly better this year than last and will start to recover from the pandemic, while 67% were optimistic that their business is in the process of recovering this year.
For businesses that take reservations, most say those reservations are still far from pre-pandemic numbers. Only 35% said their reservations for the spring and summer were close (76-100%) to what they were in 2019. Just over one-third (36%) of the respondents said their reservations were between 26% and 75% of 2019 numbers.
An overwhelming number of respondents, 74%, said most potential visitors were asking about vaccination, quarantine and testing requirements to visit Maine. Some 18% of visitors were asking about capacity and service limitations at businesses and attractions they planned to visit, and only 8% asked about cleaning, safety and health protocols at the business.
When asked about the biggest factor affecting their decisions on such things as staffing numbers and start dates, marketing, investments in and maintenance of their property, and opening and closing dates (for seasonal businesses) in planning for this spring/summer season, the responses were as follows:
- General economic uncertainty and the potential for cancellations - 34%
- Uncertainty about travel restrictions for visitors from different states (quarantine/testing/vaccination requirements) - 28%
- Limited capacity for customers/guests - 24%
- Lack of operating funds because of last year - 15%
Cameron stated, “As you can see from the numbers, those planning to travel to Maine want to know about travel restrictions and how vaccinations factor into any restrictions. Uncertainty about these also greatly affect what Maine’s business owners are choosing to invest in this year such as employees, infrastructure, and marketing.”
“We are very appreciative of Governor Mills and Commissioner Johnson for laying out protocols for travel and business capacity with the March 5 announcement,” he said. “Although nothing is 100% certain during a pandemic, this is tremendously helpful to our businesses as they make critical decisions on how they operate this season. Having so many of the questions answered now should lead to more seasonal businesses opening, more employees being hired, and greater success and recovery for tourism businesses and Maine’s economy.”
Cameron said that tourism promotion by the state is also critical to a successful season. Last week, the Maine Legislature enacted a Resolve (LD 246) to keep unexpended funds in the state’s Tourism Promotion Marketing Fund to be used this year. Survey respondents overwhelmingly believe that Maine’s marketing efforts are important to tourism’s recovery—87% said these efforts were important.
Cameron also noted that promoting Maine to visitors is helping to attract new residents too. “Our staff at the State Visitor Information Centers are speaking to a lot people who are moving to Maine, not just visiting. This demonstrates that promoting Maine is not just about marketing us as a vacation destination but reminding people about Maine’s unsurpassed quality of life. Tourism marketing helps drive our entire economy,” he said.
The Maine Tourism Association is the state’s largest advocate for all tourism-related businesses. Incorporated in 1922, MTA members includes lodging, restaurants, camps, campgrounds, retail, outdoor recreation, guides, tour operators, amusements, and cultural and historical attractions. MTA also operates the seven State Visitor Information Centers from Kittery to Calais, and annually produces the state’s official travel planner, Maine Invites You.
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