AUGUSTA, MAINE – Members of the group Work With ME have once again called on Gov. Janet Mills to reconsider its plan to reopen Maine’s tourism businesses to out-of-state guests. With the jobs numbers for May released today, many businesses throughout are still closed for lack of tourists. Numbers show more than 87,000 fewer jobs in the state this month than last year.
A group of hotel owners have asked Gov. Janet Mills and her administration to work with them to salvage what is left of the 2020 tourist season. Work With ME sent a letter urging Gov. Mills to eliminate the quarantine and replace it with responsible solutions to keep residents and visitors safe. Since then, the Work With ME plan was made more inclusive and robust, and presented again to the administration. Gov. Mills has since updated her re-open plan, which continues to put the Maine tourism industry in serious jeopardy. The group says the job numbers reflect the serious situation facing the tourism industry.
“These jobs numbers are awful, but sadly, they are no surprise,” said Eben Salvatore, Director of Operations at Bar Harbor Resorts. “We are seeing a plan from the administration that does not make tourism in Maine desirable. We have had cancellations after cancellations since she announced this testing policy. We are seeing hotel operators simply decide not to open this year because of it, and we’re seeing businesses close permanently all over the state. It’s unacceptable. Our plan puts the health and safety of individuals first, while being able to salvage the rest of our summer tourism season in the most sustainable way possible.”
The group of owners in Work With ME represents properties serving 18 municipalities, with 38 hotels and employing 3,175 people. Additional tourism-related businesses have signed on to the effort since the launch. Several of the hotels associated with the “Work With ME” group have been safely operating in Maine since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic.
“We are on the brink of a complete and total disaster,” said Salvatore. “It doesn’t have to be this way. We have a common sense plan to keep people safe and healthy, while keeping an entire industry afloat. Maine’s tourism industry is not only rich with pride and history, but it’s also the driver of our state’s entire economy. It is absolutely critical that we open doors to out of state tourists now, and our plan ensures that it can and will be done safely.”
A COVID-19-specific lodging readiness course was developed by Hospitality Maine in conjunction with Eastern Maine Community College, and was made live earlier this month. Completion of the course would support the State of Maine’s prevention checklist for lodging. The same groups developed a restaurant readiness course, which went live in May. Hospitality employees are taking the courses to ensure proper education around safety protocols in anticipation of allowing visitors into the state again. To date, at least 2000 hospitality workers are now certified with the state’s checklist, many of which having done so by taking the course.
“We are doing everything that is being asked of us,” said Salvatore. “We absolutely need to open our doors to out-of-state traffic. We’re confident in our approach and our safeguards. Our entire group is urging the governor to work with us and put some faith in the people of Maine to do their jobs.”More details can be found at www.WorkWithMaine.com.