In this May 15, 2021, file photo, visitors stroll through a waterfront park in Bar Harbor. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Staycationland had a relatively good year in 2021, all things considered.

It seems a lifetime ago that people were first talking about the importance of Mainers spending their vacation time and money here at home, to help the recovery of a tourism industry beset by pandemic restrictions and decreased willingness to travel due to COVID-19. In May 2020, consultant and retired professor David Vail wrote a column in the BDN stressing the importance of “staycations.”

“In 2020, Mainers fortunate enough to have good health and secure incomes should make a special effort to explore rural Maine’s many attractions — natural, cultural, adventure and culinary,” Vail wrote. “And spend!”

With Maine in the midst of a 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers at that time, issued by Gov. Janet Mills, and with Mills and tourism industry leaders looking for alternatives,   this editorial board wrote that “the Maine staycation should be part of the solution as well.”

“Given the wealth of beauty and recreational opportunities here in Vacationland, it wouldn’t exactly be a sacrifice for Mainers to explore their home state,” we wrote.

A lot has happened since spring 2020, including a lot of in-state visits from Mainers exploring their state.

As BDN business reporter Lori Valigra wrote recently, Maine tourism enjoyed a strong recovery in 2021, with tourists spending $1.3 billion more last year in the state than they did pre-pandemic in 2019 (despite almost 1 million fewer visitors). This rebound was supported in part by a sizeable amount of in-state visitors.

More than 15.6 million visitors spent over $7.8 billion in Maine last year. And more of those visitors, 19 percent, came from Maine compared with any other single place, according to the Maine Office of Tourism.

Industry leaders expect this summer to exceed last year’s numbers, with early bookings for the spring and summer inspiring confidence.

HospitalityMaine President and CEO Matthew Lewis said tourism is “taking off like a rocket” this year. “We expect this summer will exceed 2021,” he said.  

Mainers have helped supply a hefty amount of the rocketfuel this past year. Nice work, Staycationland.

Of course, it hasn’t all been easy sailing. We’re able to celebrate these numbers now largely because of the adaptation, resilience and hard work from Maine business owners and Maine workers. They made it possible for so many people to enjoy the many great things Maine has to offer.

Last year saw record visitors at Acadia National Park and Maine’s wonderful state park system. It saw the return of concerts and some large events, with others slated for a comeback this year. Who’s ready for the return of the Moxie Festival in July?

This state is blessed with an embarrassment of tourism riches for visitors and Mainers alike to enjoy. And there is more and more to explore, even for longtime residents. Just look at the emergence of Biddeford as one of the “next great food cities,” according to Food and Wine magazine.

There has been plenty of reshuffling of roadside signs as drivers enter the state, with the “Maine Welcome Home” signs being the latest iteration. With all the great things here, it’s almost worth adding new signs on the way out of the state, too:

Maine, Why Leave?

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...