HALLOWELL – The Maine Tourism Association recently polled its members about Labor Day weekend business and how the workforce shortage is affecting business. 

According to Tony Cameron, chief executive officer, members responding to the survey stated that 40 percent said business was better than a normal year like 2019, while 29 percent said businesses was 75-100 percent of normal. Only 8 percent said business was less than half of that of past holiday weekends.

Staffing shortages continue to impact businesses in a variety of ways. Members were asked about the effects and could choose more than one answer. Some 36 percent said they have reduced their business capacity such as room or table closures or cutting back on tours or other services; while 28 percent  have reduced hours or days of the week of operation. The impact of the staffing shortages is causing 38 percent of respondents to lose revenue. Only 7 percent said they would close earlier than normal for the season.

“It’s been a challenge for tourism businesses that are working so hard to make up for 2020’s losses, they are limited, not by a lack of visitors, but by a lack of staff. Millions in tourism dollars could be added to Maine’s economy through more lodging and meals taxes being generated, increased income taxes, businesses spending more income locally on food, supplies, improvements, and income being spent by workers if only there were more workers available,” Cameron stated.

He continued, “We can’t forget that many businesses have closed over the past year and half. Others, like theaters and large venues as well as tour and transportation businesses were the hardest hit and are still suffering as group and business travel that were non-existent last year and still are way down. While there is much positive news to report about this year, the pandemic has cost many of our local businesses millions of dollars.”

Some 67 percent of respondents believe that their business is being affected in some way by the changes in COVID cases and the delta variant.

A majority of respondents, 55 percent, are predicting that the fall season will be better than usual and another 20 percent believe it will be about the same as normal, pre-COVID, years. Only 25 percent believe fall business will be worse.

“Even with staffing shortages, overall Maine’s tourism businesses are doing very well. Hopefully, this year’s strong summer and fall will give them a solid foundation to continue and thrive in the future,” Cameron said. “When the tourism economy is strong, the state’s economy is strong. A good tourism season is the key to Maine’s recovery and growth.”

The Maine Tourism Association is the state’s largest advocate for all tourism-related businesses. Incorporated in 1922, MTA members includes lodging, restaurants, camps, campgrounds, retail, outdoor recreation, guides, tour operators, amusements, and cultural and historical attractions. MTA also operates seven State Visitor Information Centers from Kittery to Calais, and annually produces the state’s official travel planner, Maine Invites You.