OGUNQUIT, Maine — Gary Latulippe beams as he talks about considerably larger advance reservations and better deposits this tourism season than any time within the 19 years he has owned Studio East Motel.
Each of his motels — he additionally owns the Sea Chambers Motel close to the ocean in Ogunquit — are busier at an earlier time within the season this 12 months. They’re booked at virtually full occupancy into the autumn in a robust restoration for an organization that noticed enterprise virtually grind to a halt throughout early COVID-19 restrictions.
However Latulippe worries about enterprise from Canadians, which pre-pandemic made up 75 % of his prospects at Studio East. The Canadian-to-U.S. greenback trade charge has been weak for the reason that starting of the 12 months, with a Canadian greenback equaling 73 cents right here. That distinction is anticipated to dampen enterprise alongside Maine’s southern coast in York County.
“That’s going to be an element,” stated Latulippe, who speaks French and is of French-Canadian heritage. “Canadians should not totally returning but for the reason that border closure.”
He expects Canadian guests to proceed to come back to Maine, however the excessive costs might have them making fewer return journeys this 12 months. As a substitute of visiting thrice, they could solely come as soon as, he stated. Meantime, guests from different components of the northeast are serving to make up the distinction.
The U.S. reopened the Canadian border in November 2021 after shutting it for 19 months to assist curtail COVID-19 transmission. That was a tough time for companies in Ogunquit, a seaside city of 1,577 year-round residents, and its neighbors, which rely closely on Canadian tourism.
Tourism is a serious contributor to the financial system in Maine, the place the state tourism workplace reported about 15.4 million complete guests from all over the place in 2022. That was down barely from the earlier 12 months, however Maine reported $8.6 billion in direct spending, up 10 %, as a result of vacationers stayed longer and spent extra. A bumper tourism season is anticipated this 12 months.
However the Maine seashores area in York County has not but seen Canadian guests return to pre-pandemic ranges. They made up 12 % of holiday makers to the area in 2019 however solely 7 % final 12 months, up from a scant 1 % in 2021, when the border was closed, in response to tourism workplace figures. Nonetheless, the figures are rising regardless of headwinds from foreign money charges.
“We’re beginning to get again to the place we have been,” Kim Howard, govt director of the Outdated Orchard Seashore Chamber of Commerce. The city has a year-round inhabitants of about 9,000.
Over the course of a typical pre-pandemic 12 months, some 30 % of holiday makers to Outdated Orchard Seashore have been Canadian. The chamber has been getting about the identical variety of calls from vacationers because it had final 12 months, Howard stated. She is cautiously optimistic about this tourism season, which lasts from Could via as late as October.
Donna Lewis, who owns two reward retailers and a restaurant in Ogunquit, was inspired by the variety of French-speaking guests on the town regardless of the rain over the Could 22 Victoria Day lengthy weekend.
Lewis, who has operated her companies for 40 years, stated they and different vacationers have been a welcome sight following the enterprise and border closures she remembers early within the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Individuals are simply glad to be out and about in a fantastic place, to stroll the seashore alongside Marginal Means,” she stated.
Lewis owns the Revelations Present Store and Sea Bell Gallery in downtown Ogunquit and the Clay Hill Farm restaurant about two miles away in Cape Neddick. Judging from the pre-season visitors on the town, she is optimistic that this tourism season will probably be higher than final 12 months.
So, too, is Carol Chiavetta, advertising and marketing director on the Ogunquit Playhouse, the place ticket orders already are filling up seats. Usually there’s a robust contingency of holiday makers from Canada. To date, preseason gross sales have largely gone to Mainers taking a day journey to Ogunquit.
Lengthy-time enterprise individuals like Lewis know different elements can come into play throughout a tourism season, like an extended spell of rain or colder than regular temperatures.
“I at all times say to individuals who ask how my season was, ‘Ask me in October,’” Lewis stated.