In this July 7, 2020, file photo, small groups of people remain socially distanced on Old Orchard Beach. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Maine’s tourism industry has seen a historic decline after a year of pandemic restrictions.

Around 12 million tourists visited Maine last year, a 27 percent drop fueled by travel restrictions and a shuttered Canadian border, the Portland Press Herald reported.

That comes after a record-breaking year in 2019, when the state saw almost 16.5 million overnight and day-trip visitors. 

The majority of tourists traveling to Maine originated in the New England area, and the state saw less than 3 percent of tourists visit from Canada. Canadian tourists typically make up nearly half of the visitors Maine welcomes throughout the year, but last year with the Canadian border closed, fewer people were willing or able to visit.

That drop in tourists also drove an overall decline in economic activity. In total, visitors injected almost $5 billion into Maine’s economy throughout 2020. In 2019, visitors bought approximately $6.5 billion worth of Maine goods and services.

However, the challenges the tourism industry has faced may not last. Maine’s travel restrictions have been lifted for visitors from all 50 states as vaccination rates climb nationally, and gathering restrictions will continue to ease as the tourist season approaches. And Maine campgrounds are already seeing a record number of reservations ahead of the summer season, a spot of good news for the state’s outdoor recreation industry.

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the number of tourists who visited in 2019.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley and staying active in the Maine outdoors.