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Maine is still 'Vacationland'

By Christine Simmonds | Jul 23, 2020

While the numbers are much lower than in past summers, out-of-state visitors are here in Maine. Cars with out-of-state license plates can be seen driving through towns and stopping at grocery and convenience stores.

Tony Cameron, Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Tourism Association in Hallowell, said that people from other states can come to Maine, but must follow certain restrictions put in place by Gov. Janet Mills.

Currently five states are exempt from the restrictions: New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Visitors from all other states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, must quarantine for two weeks, which can be done prior to arrival, or provide a negative test for COVID-19 in order to move about freely in Maine.

With fewer tourists coming to our state, though, Cameron said the pandemic presents a unique opportunity for Mainers to explore their home territory this summer. “We want people to be safe and to travel safely,” he said. “We want people to get out and follow the protocols to wear masks.”

Cameron said the Maine Tourism Association hopes Massachusetts and Rhode Island can soon be included in the exemptions, as they recognize it can be hard to get testing done without presenting symptoms.

Sean Riley, President and CEO of Maine Course Hospitality Group, also hopes that Massachusetts is soon included in the exemptions. “The loss of Massachusetts had a huge negative (impact) on us,” he said.

MCHG operates five Hampton Inns in Maine, including the one in Thomaston. In past summers, Riley said guests at the Thomaston hotel were primarily visitors from other states. “We usually would have less than 5% Mainers,” he said.

This year Riley said only about 55% of the guests are out-of-state visitors, though those percentages may be misleading due to low occupancy rates.

Jesse Henry, Managing Partner at Migis Hotel Group, said 250 Main Hotel in Rockland is still seeing primarily out-of-state guests. “We have seen some increase of stays from Maine residents,” said Henry, but “the vast majority of our guests are from out of state.”

Henry said a large percentage of their guests are from the five New England states exempted from restrictions, but that is not a change from past years.

Henry has heard that potential guests from other states continue to struggle to receive the necessary tests to vacation in Maine. “Many folks are finding it difficult to get a COVID-19 test… and further we are hearing that test results can take five days to receive.”

Henry added that the hotel has been implementing systems to ensure it is “an impeccably safe place for our guests, and for our employees as well."

The restrictions have also affected the tourism industry financially.

The first week of July, Hampton Inn Thomaston saw revenue decrease almost 77% from 2018. “OUCH!” Riley said.

Henry said occupancy rates at 250 Main Hotel have also decreased from past years, and there is much less traveling happening.

While Cameron admits that tourism has “taken a huge, huge hit,” he is glad there are some visitors from other states as the Canadian border is closed and international visitors are unable to come to America.

Last year there were 37 million tourists who visited Maine, and most came in the summer months. “These months are critical to the health of the industry,” Cameron said. “It’s good that we are seeing people here, and we hope they are following the rules.”

Cameron also praised Maine businesses for stepping up to present a safe experience for Mainers and out-of-staters alike.

(Source: File photo)
(Source: File photo)
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