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Despite high gas prices, Maine officials are expecting a strong summer tourism season

Dan Horner, Cynthia Belaskie,
Robert F. Bukaty
In this Aug. 26, 2010 photo, Dan Horner, left, and Cynthia Belaskie, of Toronto, stroll along the ocean in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The popular tourist haven has rebounded from a dismal 2009 with help from weeks-on-end of ideal weather.

Maine officials say they're expecting another strong tourism season — but they say visitors have changed where and how they vacation here.

Steve Lyons, the director of the Maine Office of Tourism, said that further loosening of restrictions at the Canadian border, and pent-up demand for travel during the pandemic, will likely translate to a lot of visitors coming to Maine this summer.

While gas prices are still well over $4 per gallon, Lyons doesn't expect it to have a major impact on visitation. Lyons said that recent data showed that more than 90% of Americans are still planning to travel over the next six months, and he expects Maine will benefit from being relatively close to cities such as Philadelphia and New York.

"Some of the other reports we're hearing are that people might not spend as much on souvenirs, or go out to dinner quite as frequently. But other than that, there is pent-up demand, and we do expect people to travel to Maine this summer," Lyons said.

Lyons said rural areas, such as Piscataquis and Somerset Counties, saw a big boost in tourism over the last few years because of people looking for outdoor recreation and more space during the pandemic. He said while he expects that trend to continue, the state is also seeing more people returning to traditional tourist areas along the coast.

"So we are starting to see that change," Lyons said. "It'll be interesting for us to see how '22 plays out, given those circumstances."

The office reports that Maine saw 2.4 percent more visitors last summer, compared with the pre-pandemic summer of 2019.