Maine restaurant and lodging revenue in May rose from a year ago, reflecting a strong start to the tourist season as the industry still struggles to recover from the pandemic.
Restaurants saw taxable sales rise nearly 8% to $281.4 million in May from a year earlier, according to the latest state data. Accommodation taxable sales increased more than 17% to $128.4 million during the same period.
The increases were even higher compared to April sales, with taxable restaurant sales up 17% and accommodation nearly 62%.
This is good news for the state, as these two sectors make up a large part of the tourism industry, a major economic contributor. Tourism had a total economic impact of nearly $14.5 billion in 2021, up 61% from the first year of the pandemic marked by economic restrictions. The industry supports about 143,100 jobs, or about 21% of employment in the state.
“This is very good news,” said Matt Lewis, CEO of industry group HospitalityMaine.
He still expects some restaurants to close temporarily or completely as they still struggle to recruit enough staff to stay open for full hours. He said many restaurants had not received grants from the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and the US Senate in May rejected an effort to replenish the fund.
Restaurant and accommodation businesses are still showing a strong recovery from their pandemic low in April 2020, when strict travel and health restrictions related to COVID-19 were in place. During that month, taxable restaurant sales fell to $85.6 million and lodging to just under $10 million, with the hospitality industry losing about $1 billion in taxable sales in 2020.
Bar Harbor’s hot tourist area saw taxable sales of about $1 million in May 2020, but sales rose sharply to $8.6 million last year and $10.5 million this year. May 2022. Accommodation taxable sales were $462,000 in May 2020, but last reached $8.9 million. year and $10.3 million this year.
Still, Lewis said some members of HospitalityMaine are reporting parking lots are less busy now than they were last year and occupancy rates are lower than last year. Fall bookings at hotels are strong, perhaps because of makeovers for postponed weddings and fall foliage tours, he said. Inflation-related price increases also play a role.
“Price growth will help most places overtake last year,” he said. “But we’re not off the hook yet.”