Memorial Day weekend has come and gone. The official start of the summer season, it generally serves as an indicator of the surge that will occur over the next few months. And judging by the steady stream of cars that came through Ellsworth and onto Mount Desert Island over that weekend, all signs point to another busy summer for the region.
Fewer people than last year brought their cars through toll booths in Maine for the holiday, but still some 940,000 transactions were recorded at turnpike stations between that Friday and Monday. That was down 1,000 from the previous year’s holiday weekend.
High gas prices, which typically curtail driving, haven’t seemed to slow travel. As gas prices continue to rise, people are still choosing to vacation in Maine. Some of the state’s best features are the reasons people visit. From its mountains to its waterfronts to its numerous trail systems, Maine offers vacations full of activity at low cost.
Travel has been difficult during these last few pandemic years. Despite rising costs, people are not scrimping when it comes to taking a planned vacation – one that may have already been pushed off for quite some time.
For a state with only 1.34 million people, the influx of visitors from 940,000 turnpike transactions is significant. Its impact is not only felt on the roadways but also in the small seaside towns and villages where the vacationers land for a week or a weekend.
We welcome all of Maine’s tourists from near and far. We depend on tourist dollars to help our small businesses stay afloat. Maine’s Office of Tourism found that in 2021, direct spending from tourists was $7.8 billion statewide, which was over a million dollars more than the previous record-setting year of 2019.
But with the increase of visitors comes some of the things that everyday Mainers dislike – traffic congestion, long lines at restaurants and crowded streets. This can be a challenge for those who live and work in some of the busiest tourist destinations.
We urge all people to give themselves some extra time to get around town and to be patient, even as people cross the road outside of crosswalks. One of the best things about being a local is knowing which roads bypass the busiest areas. And, just like prized fishing holes in the state, those backroads are best kept a secret from those just here for a visit.