Maine tourism businesses see strong July 4 weekend but workforce shortage remains a problem
HALLOWELL – The Maine Tourism Association recently polled its members about July 4 weekend business, visitor trends and how the workforce shortage is affecting business.
According to Chief Executive Officer Tony Cameron, members responding to the survey stated that nearly 40 percent said business was better than a normal year like 2019, while 47 percent said businesses was 75-100 percent of normal. Only 5 percent said business was worse than usual over the holiday weekend.
“It is such a relief to see our tourism businesses rebounding after the tremendous losses of 2020,” Cameron said. “Early on, all indications were that this year would be a good year for our recovery and it is wonderful to see that panning out. However, challenges do exist — the Canadian border closure affects certain regions of the state greatly and the workforce shortage is tremendously affecting all aspects of tourism.”
The Canadian border closure has impacted 33 percent of businesses significantly or moderately, according to survey respondents.
Staffing shortages continue to be a major issue. Some 46 percent said they had half or fewer of the employees they needed this summer. This has led to 37 percent of the responding businesses to reduce hours or day of the week of operation and 54 percent are reducing their business capacity such as room or table closures or cutting back on tours or other services. The impact of these changes is causing 70 percent of respondents to experience up to a 25 percent loss in revenue; while 28 percent expect a loss in revenue of 25-50 percent.
“The surge in business this summer is terrific but clearly we are leaving millions in tourism dollars on the table due to staffing shortages. Lodging properties are full but many can’t open all their rooms without more housekeeping staff. Some restaurants, similarly, are keeping sections unused due to lack of kitchen or serving staff,” Cameron stated.
New tourism trends noted included many businesses seeing more Maine travelers than usual, while others said that visitation from across the nation was up. Also noted that people are staying longer, more focus on outdoor activities, and less seasoned travelers.
Cameron stated that the staff at the State Visitor Information Centers are seeing those same trends — a strong increase in outdoor recreation and new travelers, as well as a lot of people who are moving to Maine. “This demonstrates that tourism helps drive our entire economy. Promoting Maine is not just about marketing us as a vacation destination but reminding people about Maine’s unique quality of life,” he said.
The Maine Tourism Association is the state’s largest advocate for all tourism-related businesses. Incorporated in 1922, MTA members include lodging, restaurants, camps, campgrounds, retail, outdoor recreation, guides, tour operators, amusements, and cultural and historical attractions. MTA also operates seven State Visitor Information Centers from Kittery to Calais, and annually produces the state’s official travel planner, Maine Invites You.