|By Tom Bell, Portland Press Herald,
MaineMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
August 20, 2010 - --PORTLAND -- Maine's tourism industry is rebounding from last year's miserable summer, and the state's restaurants, campgrounds and hotels are getting a much-needed boost in income.
Although many consumers remain cautious about spending because of the sluggish economy, this summer's sunny weather has been a huge improvement over last summer's rainy and cool weather, said Steve DiMillo of DiMillo's Floating Restaurant in Portland.
He said his restaurant has been serving 1,000 meals a day -- a 10 percent increase over last year. "Great weather trumps everything," he said. "The sunshine is obviously our friend."
Sales at restaurants in Maine are up 2 percent to 4 percent this summer over last summer, according to industry estimates.
In July, the state's hotels had an occupancy rate of 74 percent -- an increase of 10.7 percentage points over the same month last year, according to Smith Travel Research, a Tennessee-based company that serves the lodging industry.
Last summer was particularly tough for the hotel industry because many people saved money by taking day trips and sleeping at home, said Patricia Eltman, director of Maine's Office of Tourism.
Fewer Americans are taking two-week vacations that are planned in advance, she said. Instead, they take trips on the spur of the moment for three or four days.
Last year, some hotels went out of business. Many of those that survived are now on the edge, said Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association.
That's why this year's rebound is so important, he said. "For some folks, they needed this to survive," Dugal said.
The downside for consumers is that hotels aren't discounting room rates as much as they did last year, because they aren't so desperate to fill rooms.
At the Portland Harbor Hotel, a boutique hotel on Fore Street, room rates are holding steady, said Peter Wetzel, an assistant front-office manager. The hotel has sold out its rooms for 16 of the last 19 days, he said.
Last summer at Bayley's Camping Resort in Old Orchard Beach, the weather was so dreary that many campers cut their stays short and went home early. This year, just the opposite is happening, said the general manager, Tom Bayley.
"They are staying longer and moving sites to stay longer," he said. "They are having a better vacation. The weather is tremendous."
Last summer was both wetter and cooler than normal. In July 2009, 8.6 inches of rain fell in Portland and the average temperature was 66.2 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
This July, 4.06 inches of rain fell, and the average temperature was 72.3 degrees -- 3.6 degrees warmer than normal.
Weather in the heavily populated states to the south is also a factor for the tourism industry, Dugal said. The good news for Maine is that those states have been miserably hot this summer, he said.
"The weather here has been good," he said, "but it's more important that it's been 100 degrees for everyone else. It drives people here."
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:
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