PORTLAND, Maine — Restaurant and lodging sales have been on a steady climb statewide, and the start of this year’s tourist season will bring one test: can it be even better?
Both categories of taxable sales climbed more than 4 percent for the period from April to June 2014, compared with sales for 2013. The trend continued a climb out of the recession, which hit statewide lodging sales hardest.
The two categories of sales are one barometer for the strength of the tourist season, as they’re the areas of spending most directly aligned with spending by visitors to the state.
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Early signs of health for this tourist season look good. Time will tell whether restaurant and lodging sales can surpass 2014’s totals, but scheduled cruise ship arrivals are up this year and gas prices are down after a long, cold winter.
The Nova Star cruise ship arrives in Portland on Saturday for the start of its second season after a rough restart one year ago.
The ridesharing service Uber is making something of a bet on summer tourists in Maine, bringing on drivers in Bar Harbor, Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunk and Ogunquit for service that went online Friday night.
Portland’s catching up to Maine’s summer lodging headquarters, York County. Maine Revenue Services tracks taxable sales statewide, by county, town and a grouping called an “economic summary area.”
Kittery’s, for example, includes Cape Neddick, Eliot, Highpine, Kittery, Moody Beach, Ogunquit, South Berwick, Webhannet, Wells and York.
And that’s where the hospitality sector in Maine is most booming from April to June, but the addition of new hotels in Greater Portland has closed the gap.
Total lodging sales in the second quarter of 2014 were about $30.8 million in the Kittery area and about $25.8 million in the Portland area. That level of revenue was about a 2 percent increase for Kittery; Portland’s lodging sales rose about 10 percent during the same time.
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In the areas around Augusta, Waterville and Lewiston, lodging sales for the second quarter dropped last year, all by about the same percentage.
Bar Harbor restaurants are cookin’. Restaurants in the Bar Harbor region posted the sharpest increase in second-quarter sales from 2013 to 2014, rising 13 percent.
Of course, restaurant sales aren’t just limited to tourists, but they’re at least partly influenced by an influx of summer residents and other vacationers.
The Portland area has a lock on total restaurant revenue, and its rate of sales growth accelerated last year.
With more than double the restaurant sales of the next-highest region — Bangor — Portland-area restaurant sales grew more than 7 percent in the second quarter of 2014, to about $111.4 million.
Each economic summary area in the state posted increases in restaurant sales except for the Augusta region last year.
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