By Alf Anderson
Earlier this summer, a Midwestern couple stopped into the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce administration office because they felt compelled to share the wonderful experience they had during their visit. They had hiked in Acadia National Park, dined and shopped in Bar Harbor, and were now on their way home after one final breakfast in town. They wanted us to know that their visit was made even more special by the friendly, welcoming people of Mount Desert Island.
At the Chamber, we hear similar stories on a near-daily basis, mostly through our Visit Bar Harbor social media platform.
“My favorite town and my favorite national park. Love this town. Took five vacations here.” – Nicole S.
“Without question, Bar Harbor and its people have been so friendly and welcoming. Thank you.” – Nick S.
What many of us in Bar Harbor consider to be our quaint, small town in Maine is seen around the world as a must-visit travel destination. Travelers view our island as they do the Grand Canyon, New York City or Paris: as a wonderful opportunity to leave home for a short while and see a new part of the world. Year after year, the reviews from these visitors are overwhelmingly positive.
Tourism supports locally owned businesses like Side Street Cafe, Galyn’s, My Darling Maine, Acadia Perk, Bar Harbor Pick a Pearl, Lulu Lobster Boat Ride, the Atlantic Eyrie Lodge, Cherrystones, Choco-Latte, Acadian Boat Tours (all Chamber member businesses) and too many more to list.
These businesses are owned and operated by families whose children attend our schools, former students of those schools, some who have been here for generations, and some who moved here to start a business because they fell in love with MDI just like the rest of us. The owners and employees of these businesses also generously give back to our community through charitable contributions of both money and time.
Other organizations that you wouldn’t consider tourism based also thrive, in part, because of tourism. MDI Hospital cares for patients who suffer bumps, bruises and breaks during hikes in Acadia and from urgent care needs that arise on cruise ships coming to port. The town of Bar Harbor itself benefits from the fees paid by those cruise ships and that revenue is used to offset costs for public safety, the upkeep of our beautiful in-town parks, and many other areas. Trade professionals like electricians and HVAC technicians are always busy repairing restaurant refrigerators and cold rooms and installing heat pumps while plumbers are unclogging pipes and replacing old boilers with more efficient hot water heaters.
A year-round community is important and we all want and deserve to live our lives comfortably all year long. We should absolutely find ways to address parking challenges and better manage the flow of people during peak season. We should, of course, continue seeking solutions to our housing and infrastructure issues.
But while we look for ways to make Bar Harbor an even more wonderful place to live and visit, let’s be sure to keep in mind that tourism is overwhelmingly beneficial to our community. Let’s keep in mind the families and organizations that thrive here because of tourism. And let’s all work together to improve the beloved community that we have built together.
Alf Anderson is the executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.