June lodging and restaurant tax revenues in Maine rose under relaxed state government coronavirus restrictions, but they remained far below last year’s levels.
Restaurants paid $187 million in taxes for business in June, up 40 percent from those in May, though still 39 percent lower than taxes collected last June, according to the latest data from Maine Revenue Services. Lodging establishments paid $57.9 million in taxes in June, more than double what they paid in May but down 62 percent from last June.
The taxes reflect the business volume for those hospitality groups, underlying the increased movement within Maine and from out-of-staters as economic restrictions lifted. Gov. Janet Mills allowed indoor dining in all but three counties on June 1 and added remaining counties on June 17. Lodging establishments were allowed to reopen to out-of-state visitors on June 26 with quarantine or testing requirements in place for most states.
Steve Hewins, president and CEO of the industry group HospitalityMaine, said he expected month-to-month improvements, and that July and August should show continuing business increases.
He said June figures reflect Maine residents traveling and venturing out more to eat. July data will show the impact from out-of-state visitors, primarily from neighboring states New Hampshire and Vermont, where residents were not required to get tested before visiting Maine or to quarantine because their virus infection rates are low.
Hewins expects August to show more visitors from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, who also are no longer required to get tested or quarantine. He said he was on Mount Desert Island over the weekend and saw areas “jammed with plates from those states.”
He cautioned, however, that the bigger economic picture is in comparing numbers with the previous year rather than the previous month.
Sharp declines in Maine’s tourism industry that are already cutting deep into the state’s budget are expected to nearly halve lodging tax revenues between 2019 and 2020, according to an Oxford Economics report released by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, an industry group based in Washington, D.C.
Maine is expected to incur $65.9 million in lodging tax losses, the report said. That would be a 41 percent decrease from the Maine lodging taxes collected in 2019, according to state data. At 9 percent, the state’s lodging tax is among the highest in the nation in a state whose economy is heavily reliant on the tourism industry.
“That tells the human cost, not metrics that appear OK when they’re really not,” he said.