With the summer tourist season approaching, the industry is shrinking

As Maine hotels, restaurants and attractions prepare for what is expected to be a busy tourist season, managers face a host of challenges including labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and rising gasoline prices. But the show goes on. With COVID restrictions lifted, travelers are expected to flock to Maine this summer in numbers never seen before.

Help is on the way

With the all-important summer surge of tourists approaching, Maine’s hospitality industry got a boost as the federal government announced it would issue an additional 35,000 temporary visas nationwide for seasonal workers – long a mainstay for Maine’s summer hospitality and tourism industries.

H-2B visas help small businesses fill temporary and seasonal positions when there aren’t enough able and willing American workers for them.

The allocation, announced March 31 by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security, includes 23,500 visas for returning workers, who received an H-2B visa or achieved H-2B status during of the last three years. The remaining 11,500 visas are reserved for nationals of Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The visas are reserved for employers who wish to employ these workers between April 1 and September 30. In a joint statement, the senses. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, applauded the move, but stressed the need to improve the H-2B program to ensure Maine’s small businesses don’t continue to suffer from a lack of workers.

“While these additional visas will help provide relief to many small businesses in Maine, there is still an overwhelming need given the current tight labor market and record unemployment rate,” the senators said in a joint statement. “We need to improve the H-2B program to ensure Maine’s small businesses don’t continue to suffer from a shortage of workers.”

Destination Management

As record numbers of visitors flock to Maine, the State Office of Tourism is developing a Destination Management Plan to determine how to grow tourism in a way that does not compromise residents’ quality of life or the quality of the visitor experience.

The Tourism Board has hired Coraggio Group, a Portland, Oregon-based consultant, to develop the plan that balances tourism growth, while monitoring visitor impact, improving visitor impact at the most visited, addressing the overuse of certain destinations. , by reducing seasonality and adapting to the environmental and social impacts of attendance.

The plan would also address job creation and how tourism supports local farms, fishermen and manufacturers – in addition to hotels, restaurants and attractions. It would identify impact issues in hotspots like Acadia National Park and explore how to encourage visitors to travel outside of peak season and to lesser-known destinations.

The state will conduct an online survey to seek feedback from residents, business owners, visitors, economic development officials and local officials, and host a series of in-person and remote town hall-style sessions throughout throughout April and May in all eight of Maine. tourist regions for feedback.

Ultimately, the Tourist Board will have a visitor management strategy that will provide a framework for measuring the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism, recommend ways to improve the management of the most popular sites, target locations that do not want or need promotion due to current traffic, recommend strategies to expand visits during the shoulder season and identify strategies to adapt to environmental impacts and encourage socially responsible travel.

The final plan will be completed by November 2022.

The new plan comes as visits to Maine rebound from the pandemic. Some 15.6 million visitors in 2021 spent around $7.8 billion. Hotel occupancy, daily rates and revenue per available room (Revpar) have approached pre-pandemic levels. Maine is expected to see an increase in first-time visitors this summer.

island time

The team behind the Chebeague Island Inn, EVO Kitchen + Bar and the redevelopment of the former Portland Co. site has purchased the northern half of House Island in Portland Harbor for $5.35 million.

The 12-acre parcel has 3,980 feet of usable ocean frontage, five beaches, three renovated homes, a barn with caretaker’s quarters, and a 375-foot deep-water commercial-grade jetty.

Courtesy / Legacy Properties Sotheby’s

Home Island in Casco Bay.

The property is already marketed for weddings, corporate retreats, family reunions and other special events.

The deal was brokered by House Island Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of PF Capital Fund, whose managing partners are Casey Prentice and Kevin Costello. Prentice, president of the Prentice Hospitality Group, also owns Fore Points Marina and 58 Culinary in Portland and the Maine Classic Car Museum in Arundel. A restaurant, Twelve, should open this summer in Portland.

House Island is designated as a historic district, which means the Portland Preservation Board must review any improvements before they proceed.

Drive-in alarm clock

Saco’s Aquaboggan Water Park plans to relocate and reopen the water park’s Saco Drive-In this summer, saving the theater and giving it a new home after more than 80 years of operation. The water park announced on its Facebook page that it was working to obtain municipal permits that would allow it to open the Saco Drive-In in Aquaboggan in the near future.

The water park and drive-in are located across from each other on U.S. Route 1. The hope is to get it up and running this summer, said Aquaboggan Water Park General Manager in Mainebiz.

Courtesy / Saco Drive-In

The Saco drive-in

Plans call for the drive-in screen to take over a field that is now used for overflow parking. The screen is planned to face the water park and the car park and there will be space for up to 250 cars.

Hale Trailer Brake & Wheel, a truck and trailer dealership in Portland, has acquired the Saco Drive-In property from Biddeford-based Roberge Construction Inc.. Hale Trailer donates the iconic drive-in sign and fountain to the Aquaboggan.

The Saco Drive-in opened in 1939. Other drive-ins in Maine are located in Westbrook, Bridgton, Skowhegan, Farmington, Hermon and Madawaska.

In 2013, the Saco Drive-In as well as drive-ins nationwide were closed with the conversion to digital projection systems. Saco and the surrounding community helped raise money for the drive-in and he also won a national competition for a new digital projection system.

Switch to the fast lane

Sunday River Resort will begin installing an 8-person chairlift billed as the fastest of its kind in North America to be ready for the 2022-23 ski season.

The elevator investment, a Doppelmayr D elevator with heated seats and bubble blankets, is part of Sunday River 2030, a 10-year growth initiative focused on building new infrastructure, operations throughout the year and the achievement of a net zero carbon impact.

Other improvements include the implementation of radio frequency identification technology; snowmaking, real estate development; the renovation of its convention center and new attractions designed to attract visitors in the summer. Sunday River is owned by Michigan-based Boyne Resorts, which also owns Sugarloaf and Shawnee Peak.

To-go cocktails are in the spotlight until 2025

Governor Janet Mills has signed legislation allowing restaurants and bars to offer alcoholic beverages for takeout until at least March 30, 2025.

The legislation, originally authorized by executive order at the start of the pandemic to help bars and restaurants, extends provisions that were previously set to expire this year. Jay Hibbard, vice president of state government relations for the Distilled Spirits Council, said the expansion would bring much-needed stability to local restaurants, bars and distilleries.

So far, 18 states have passed legislation to make take-out cocktails permanent.

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