Pauline Barry organizes merchandise at her shop, Polly’s, in Old Orchard Beach on Monday. Barry, who has been a business owner since 1990, hopes it is a strong year for tourism. She plans to open the store for the season in a few weeks. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Tourism industry officials in Maine say they hope to build on the results from 2022, a year in which the number of visitors to the state slipped, but tourist spending rose sharply.

At the Maine Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Bangor on Tuesday, state officials said direct spending by tourists totaled $8.64 billion last year, up from $7.85 billion in 2021.

An analysis by the Maine Office of Tourism found that while the number of people visiting Maine last year declined slightly – from 15.6 million in 2021 to 15.4 million – those who did visit tended to stay longer and spend more.

Direct spending by tourists rose 10% and the number of nights visitors spent in a hotel or motel room shot up 18%, said Joseph St. Germain, of Downs and St. Germain Research, a Westbrook firm hired by the state.

All that spending helped support 151,000 jobs in Maine, the analysts said. The average Maine household saved more than $2,000 in state taxes that were covered instead by visitors.

St. Germain said tourists were more inclined last year to “immerse” themselves in Maine, whether that meant camping, going to the beach or visiting restaurants over several days – instead of making shorter visits.


Foodie culture is now a leading draw for Maine, St. Germain’s research found, with 74% of visitors saying food was one of the leading reasons to visit. That percentage eclipsed the more general reasons of tourism and sightseeing, which were cited by 53% of those surveyed.

The tendency to stay longer will also have an impact on the state’s tourism marketing, said Jordan Kuglitsch of Miles Partnership, a tourism marketing firm.

Kuglitsch said the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, along with eastern Canada, are still seen as prime territory for marketing the state to potential tourists, and several metro areas in Florida, Atlanta and Chicago are emerging markets. Visitors from those areas, all quite a distance from Maine, would likely stay for two, three or more days, she said.

She said marketing this year will also seek to broaden tourists’ ideas of when to visit, promoting fall and winter along with the traditional spring and summer seasons.

Asked how Maine might make inroads for fall tourism against states such as Vermont, a prime fall destination, Kuglitsch said Maine has a natural edge – it has a long coastline to attract visitors in addition to fall foliage.

Businesses that cater to tourists are already gearing up to build on the boost in spending that occurred in 2022.


Pauline Barry, who owns Polly’s in Old Orchard Beach, was preparing this week to set out some of the T-shirts, sweatshirts and other tourist merchandise at her seaside shop, even though prime tourist season is still a way off.

Barry said the last two years have seen a nice bounce-back in tourism, but the pandemic has left a permanent mark.

“The Canadians were back (last year) and if the weather’s good, we’ll do great,” she said.

The pandemic-induced closing of the U.S.-Canadian border hurt business a lot, Barry said, but there was a noticeable bump after the border was opened last fall. Before then, Barry said, she saw an increase in the number of U.S. visitors from outside the Northeast, the primary area from which Maine has traditionally drawn visitors.

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