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The idea of promoting “ staycations” here in Vacationland is nothing new. And with dire predictions about the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Maine’s hospitality and tourism sector, there are several ways to adopt and adapt the concept of a staycations to help soften the blow and plan for the future.
In a recent BDN OpEd, Bowdoin College emeritus professor of economics David Vail outlined how Mainers can help support the state’s tourism economy by spending their own vacation time here in the Pine Tree State.
“The name pretty well describes a staycation: 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!”
As the tourism industry continues to raise alarms about Gov. Mills’ current 14-day quarantine requirement for visitors from outside Maine, and Mills’ administration says it continues to work on alternatives, 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.
A different kind of staycationing also has a role to play in Maine’s long term economic recovery. In 2018, Republican gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody proposed a “Staycationland” plan to try to get more people to move to Maine and help build the state’s workforce.
“I think we ought to be able to successfully change Maine from ‘Vacationland’ to ‘Staycationland,’” Moody said then, as reported by the Portland Press Herald. “There is no reason with a proper marketing strategy that we can’t capture some of these folks that love Maine, to stay here and raise their families here.”
Several voices here in the state have recently pointed out how, given the widespread shift to remote work during this pandemic and indications that could become a more standard practice in the future, there could be an opportunity for Maine to leverage its quality of life and attract more workers to the state. It’s a consideration we expect to be addressed by the Economic Recovery Committee that Mills announced last week.
“Maine has the biggest economic opportunity of the century,” Martin Grohman, a former independent congressional candidate and the current executive director of the Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine, said on Twitter earlier this week. “Now it’s not just possible to work remotely and live where you want to, it’s expected.There is a new appreciation for rural, outdoor living going on as folks find they can work from home, enjoy the outdoors,and feel safe.”
Eric Brakey, one of three Republicans running in the primary to challenge Rep. Jared Golden in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, wondered on Twitter “if we may be watching the final days of cities as the economic hubs of civilization.”
“As more companies realize their employees can work from home, why wouldn’t you want your home to be in the woods of Maine instead of the concrete jungles of New York City?” Brakey asked.
To be sure, it’s easier to be a former or current candidate (or an editorial board member, for that matter) than to be an elected official making the actual policy decisions right now. As Maine officials, businesses and citizens continue to navigate the tightrope of balancing public health and economic realities, these different types of staycations should stay in the conversation.