PORTLAND (AP) – Maine’s four-year tourism slump was snapped with an increase in visitors and spending last year despite high gas prices.

Figures released Friday by Maine Gov. John Baldacci show the total number of overnight visits to Maine grew by 9 percent, and the total number of overnight vacationers grew by 12 percent in 2005.

All told, those travelers spent $3.1 billion on meals, lodging, purchases and services. That’s an increase of 15 percent compared to the previous year.

“State tourism numbers are healthier now than they have been in years,” the governor said. “Natural resources and tourism are vibrant elements of our state and our economy.”

The figures are part of a report prepared each year by Longwoods International, a Canadian travel research firm. Baldacci released the results in Bangor as he celebrated the expansion of the city’s waterfront docks, allowing for the ability of two American Cruise Lines ships to dock simultaneously.

Maine and New England in general have struggled to attract more visitors over the past four years. Maine responded by hiring a New York City advertising agency that revamped the tourism marketing campaign and redesigned the state’s Web site.

The 2005 results suggest the changes are making a difference.

At the same time, Maine’s share of trips by Northeast residents grew by 14 percent. That suggests that many travelers continue to stay relatively close to home, a trend that began after the 9/11 attacks and could be exacerbated by high gasoline prices.

Overall, Maine hosted 9.7 million overnight trips in 2005. But not everyone shared in gains.

Roughly 60 percent of hotel rooms are in southern Maine, a short trip for Boston-area residents, said Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association.

Midcoast and Down East hotels didn’t see as much traffic.

He said they could use more marketing help from the state.

“Those are awfully big numbers, and there are a lot of areas of the state that didn’t share in that success,” Dugal said.

Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

AP-ES-08-18-06 1512EDT

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