Published on : Friday, September 21, 2018
Labor Day brings some respite from the rush of summer visitors for those of us living on the Maine coast, even though total relief must wait till the baby boomers go to south on Columbus Day. This is a good time to take reserve the challenges and opportunities of tourism in two distinct Maine destinations: the coast, from Kittery to Mount Desert Island, and the Maine woods, from Oxford County in the west to Washington County Down East.
I’ve written many opinion pieces about the tourism strategy of Maine. This one is endorsed by a spate of recent articles and social media posts lamenting Europe’s “overtourism” at hot spots like Barcelona, Spain, whose over 1 million residents bear over 30 million annual visitors. As one commentator put it, “Many tourism dependent destinations are seeing the unique sense of place that characterized their hometowns vanish beneath a wave of souvenir shops, crowds, tour buses and rowdy bars. They are also suffering as local amenities and infrastructure are put under enormous strain.”
That sounds quite similar to Bar Harbor, Rockland, Boothbay, Portland and Old Orchard Beach at the time of Maine’s summer crush, even though in Maine’s case we should add cruise ships to the list of overcrowding makers and limited tourism workers housing to the list of impacts. The summer of 2017, Maine organized almost 16 million day trippers and 10 million overnight visitors, the great majority headed to coastal destinations.