July brought a bounty of tourism dollars to Maine’s beleaguered lodging establishments and restaurants, signaling a strong recovery that experts say will extend into the fall. But they still are making up for pandemic-related losses.
Lodging taxable sales, an indicator of business health, were up 110 percent to $308.1 million this July compared with the same month in 2020, when taxable sales were down more than 29 percent from the previous year, according to Maine Revenue Services. July taxable sales, released last week, apply to August revenue for the state.
Restaurants saw a 59 percent rise in taxable sales to almost $403 million this July compared with July 2020, when they were down more than 29 percent compared with the previous year. Both industries were hit hard by pandemic restrictions and closures, but taxable sales returned to pre-pandemic levels this April.
Matt Lewis, president and CEO of the industry group HospitalityMaine, said the taxable sales rise is good news, but workforce shortages, especially as student workers returned to school, continue to curtail hours of operation. The group recently announced a five-year plan aimed at restructuring the industry to relieve workforce issues.
“They’ve done well, but they’re also playing catch up from the last 18 months with the pandemic,” Lewis said. “I think it’s premature to say that they’re back to where they were before.”
Lewis expects more hotels and restaurants to close as the industry continues to recover.
Another hot area of the Maine economy, building supply sales, rose 10 percent to almost $358 million in July compared to the previous July as the market for new housing and renovations continues to be strong.
Automotive and transportation was up almost 5 percent to almost $619 million this July over last year, but lower than the almost 15 percent rise in July 2020 over the previous year. Demand for new and used cars has slowed because of the lack of inventory, according to Maine Revenue Services.