Vacancy signs hang on Bar Harbor hotels and Inns. One of Maine's biggest tourist towns looks different without many tourists because of the COVID pandemic. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

In the latest move to relax coronavirus pandemic restrictions, Gov. Janet Mills’ administration said Friday that lodging guests staying in Maine no longer need reservations.

The governor’s administration has been gradually updating safety checklists since she announced in early March that the state would allow more people to travel to Maine without COVID-19 tests or quarantine and relax capacity limits on stores and other venues while keeping safety protocols in place.

Friday’s change, effective immediately, consolidates guidelines for hotels, short-term rentals and campgrounds onto a single lodging checklist. The updated checklist also revises cleaning protocols.

Hotels, along with restaurants, have been among the hardest hit businesses by pandemic restrictions, including capacity limits. Tax revenue, which reflects the health of the industry, was down 7 percent this January and down 75 percent last April, the first full month the pandemic restrictions were in place, both compared to January 2020.

Effective March 26, indoor gatherings can have 50 percent of permitted occupancy or 50 persons, whichever is greater. That rises to 75 percent of permitted occupancy or 50 persons, whichever is greater, as of May 24. Outdoor gatherings have a 75 percent limit of permitted occupancy as of March 26 and 100 percent starting May 24. Individuals in shared spaces still must keep 6 feet of physical distance.

Campsites are limited to a single household. Short-term rental spaces in an occupied residence should have a separate exterior entrance and exit and not require the use of shared facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Mills’ office said the changes are being made as COVID-19 vaccines progress in Maine and to help the upcoming tourism season, which was effectively shut down or running minimally for several months last year.

On Friday, the governor also accelerated the vaccine schedule in the state, with those aged 50 and older eligible for shots on March 23 and those 16 and older on April 19.

“That is big, especially for younger hospitality workers,” Steve Hewins, executive director of the HospitalityMaine Education Foundation, said.

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Lori Valigra

Lori Valigra, senior reporter for economy and business, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...