ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Through the first half of this year, the estimated number of visits to Acadia was down 89,574 from the same period last year, a drop of 7.6 percent.
Still, it was the second-highest first-six-months visitation number on record. The January through June total was just over 1.08 million visits.
For the month of June alone, estimated visitation was off 8.9 percent. Even so, the estimated 603,023 visits last month were the second-highest ever for June.
The 10,685 tour bus passengers in June, including those from cruise ships, was 263 percent more than last year’s June number. The estimated non-tour bus count was down 11 percent.
The 38,179 overnight stays in Acadia’s campgrounds represented an increase of 56 percent over June 2021.
Although park visitation this year appears unlikely to match 2021’s record-setting estimated total of 4.1 million, 2022 could be the year with the second-most visits ever.
Maine tourism robust
While Acadia visitation is down, tourism indicators for Maine overall are mostly up.
“During the first five months of this year, Maine had the highest rate of recovery of any state in terms of tourism spending,” said Jennifer Geiger, PR/communications manager at the Maine Office of Tourism.
“Early traffic indicators from the Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine Visitor Information Centers for the major holiday weekends show visitation on par with last summer. Memorial Day Weekend, which had a rainy forecast, was slightly down, and Independence Day visitation was either flat or slightly up.
“It’s too early to tell if this means Maine’s travel boom of recent years is leveling off,” Geiger said.
The next six weeks – from now until Labor Day – will be key.
Geiger said the Office of Tourism’s visitor tracking research shows that, from December 2021 through April 2022, Maine saw a 20 percent increase in visitation over the same period the previous winter and early spring. The estimated number of visits to Acadia during that same five-month period was down about 22 percent.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, in the first five months of 2022, Maine travel spending was up 25 percent over the same period in 2019.
“In recent years, growth in travel spending has outpaced visitation numbers,” Geiger said. “For example, in 2021, annual visitation increased by an estimated 29 percent over 2020, yet tourism spending increased by 63 percent, and lodging occupancy was up 37 percent.
“In the first five months of 2022, restaurant and lodging taxable sales in Maine were about 18 percent ahead of the same period in 2021 and 20 percent ahead of that period in 2019. According to Smith Travel Research, occupancy for the first five months of 2022 was the highest it’s been in 10 years.”
If there is a dark cloud on Maine’s tourism horizon, it is inflation, particularly the record high price of gasoline – not to mention $40 lobster rolls.
“At a time when the impact of the [COVID-19] pandemic on travel planning is steadily declining, a new worry for the travel industry has emerged – spiking gas prices,” according to Longwoods International, a tourism research firm. “About six in 10 travelers indicate rising gas prices will impact their travel plans during the next six months.”