Trip leases gradual in Maine, pushing down costs for summer season vacationers

Trip leases gradual in Maine, pushing down costs for summer season vacationers
Trip leases gradual in Maine, pushing down costs for summer season vacationers

Heather Montgomery, supervisor of The Kennebunk Inn, contained in the sitting room on Saturday. “As we received in direction of the top of 2022, we had been on a big upwards trajectory from 2021.” However this summer season, that trajectory has eased. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Workers Photographer

Usually by this time of 12 months, Tom and DeeDee Blake’s Airbnb rental in South Portland, overlooking Portland Harbor, could be booked nearly strong for July and August.

Final week, on the edge of Maine’s peak summer season vacationer season, the two-bedroom suite – one among 56 registered short-term leases within the metropolis – had 15 nights open every month.

“For our prime two months, once we’d often be at the least 90% full, we’re 50% full,” Tom Blake stated. “Final 12 months was our greatest 12 months ever. However bookings in Might had been down 70% from final Might, and I believe we’ll finish the 12 months down 50% total.”

The Kennebunk Inn has additionally seen a downturn this 12 months. The inn’s occupancy price was 70% to 80% by June 2023, in contrast with almost 100% this time final 12 months, in response to Heather Montgomery, the inn’s supervisor. The low price has come as a shock to the inn.

“We had been actually getting a rush of everyone coming, everyone escaping as a result of they lastly received to go locations,” she stated. “As we received in direction of the top of 2022, we had been on a big upwards trajectory from 2021. We didn’t actually see any indication that that upwards trajectory would cease.”

Bookings for short-term leases have slowed throughout Maine, leading to larger summer season keep choices and typically decrease charges. That mixture is much completely different from the market through the COVID-19 pandemic, which created unimaginable demand for leases of all types.

It’s a nationwide development amongst standard summer season trip locations and one among a number of elements that Maine tourism officers are watching because the 2023 vacationer season will get underway.

After an unusually wet June, short-term rental operators in Maine face an equally saturated market. Brief-term stays have soared in reputation in recent times, spurring many residents and corporations to transform houses into trip leases. However now the operators are competing in a panorama clouded by persistent financial uncertainty, renewed worldwide journey curiosity and staffing shortages that create lengthy waits and enterprise closures.

On-line trip rental platforms Airbnb, Vrbo and Vacasa confirmed continued availability this summer season close to Ogunquit, Bar Harbor and different standard Maine locations. Some hosts slashed nightly charges by greater than $100.

Vacasa reported in Might that bookings are down after two file years.

“We proceed to see evolving reserving patterns because the trade comes off of two file years, and we’re experiencing some renewed bookings softening,” Vacasa stated in a letter to the corporate’s shareholders.

Airbnb and Vrbo didn’t reply to requests for interviews.


Another excuse for the larger availability is renewed competitors for vacationers, who’re getting extra adventurous with their trip {dollars} within the wake of the pandemic, particularly abroad.

Fb feeds are stuffed with associates’ images from latest journeys to Italy, Iceland and different locations that had been out of bounds through the pandemic.

“There are positively extra short-term leases and personal leases obtainable,” stated Tony Cameron, CEO of the Maine Tourism Affiliation, which represents 1,500 companies statewide.

“Much more got here on-line in recent times and much more locations can be found to journey to now,” he stated. “The will to journey has by no means been increased. In the course of the pandemic, the liberty to go wherever, anytime, was severely restricted. The return of that freedom continues to be fairly recent in everybody’s thoughts.”

To extend bookings, some short-term rental hosts have change into extra versatile about requiring minimal stays, which leaves much less fascinating weekdays obtainable. However circumstances shift from rental to rental, Cameron stated.

“Some leases are booked by the season and others have spots to fill,” he stated. “We all the time suggest that individuals plan forward, however you may often discover a place to remain if you happen to’re not too choosy, even on the top of the season.”

Blake, the short-term rental host in South Portland, has some educated opinions on why demand for summer season leases is down. A retired firefighter and former mayor, he enjoys chatting with visitors and carefully follows information about rental traits.

Airbnb lately despatched him an e-mail sharing nationwide journey knowledge. It stated 57% of vacationers to Better Portland come from lower than 300 miles away. The guests are additionally deciding to journey extra spontaneously and for shorter durations. The common keep in Blake’s rental is 2.1 nights, he stated.

Portland has 844 licensed short-term leases.

Many individuals are touring by automobile with youngsters, together with a Minnesota couple with two younger sons who stayed with the Blakes in late June. They stopped on their solution to Acadia Nationwide Park in Bar Harbor.

“Acadia is big,” Blake stated. “About 30% of our visitors are going to or coming from Acadia. I believe with out Acadia, tourism in Portland could be down significantly.”

Blake stated he has observed a decline in vacationers from Asia and Europe. He believes they’re dissuaded by information experiences about mass shootings and different violence and the instability of the U.S. economic system.


Latest visitors even have famous that the labor scarcity seems to be worse in Maine than different states. Final week visitors informed him about hourlong waits for tables at two standard native eating places and one restaurant that was closed on a Wednesday.

“Staffing is a nationwide drawback, but it surely’s worse right here,” Blake stated.

Cameron, with the tourism affiliation, acknowledged that staffing stays a problem for a lot of companies in Maine’s tourism trade, which generates greater than $15 billion yearly and helps 151,000 jobs, in response to the Maine Workplace of Tourism.

“However we all the time want to ensure we proceed to supply nice service as a result of we’re competing towards each different vacation spot,” he stated.

Becky Jacobson, interim government director of HospitalityMaine, which represents the lodging and restaurant industries, stated staffing challenges have eased for some operators.

“Final summer season (operators had been) completely slammed,” she stated. “Companies had been nonetheless rebounding, which was nice for enterprise however actually arduous on operators. This summer season, demand has returned to regular ranges and staffing is so much higher. Some operators are nonetheless struggling, however some are actually near full staffing.”


Native reserving brokers are seeing sturdy demand for his or her summer season leases, particularly amongst returning visitors, however they’re noticing the impression of an expanded short-term rental market and the proliferation of on-line trip rental platforms.

Maine Trip Leases, an company that books reservations for 30 non-public houses in and round Blue Hill, close to Bar Harbor, requires at the least one-week reservations.

The company’s properties are fully booked this summer season, stated co-owner Gina Lewis, however demand has cooled within the final 12 months and a half.

“When COVID hit, I didn’t have sufficient homes,” Lewis stated. “Now, I believe demand has returned to regular and I believe individuals produce other journey choices, so fewer individuals are coming to Maine they usually’re not coming for lengthy durations.”

The Cottage Connection books for 50 non-public household houses in and round Boothbay. In 2021 and 2022, they had been absolutely booked a 12 months upfront, additionally with minimal weeklong stays.

This 12 months, their summer season bookings are at 75% on the season’s begin, barely down from the same old 80%, with a two-week common keep, stated Alexis Miller, reservations supervisor.

“All of our repeat visitors are reserving once more, however we positively have some availability,” Miller stated. “It’s slightly bit everywhere.”

Friends reserving now are an “fascinating combine,” she stated. Whereas it’s commonplace for individuals to take per week to verify a reservation, this 12 months some are taking greater than three weeks to determine.

“For others, there’s no query,” Miller stated. “It’s wham, bam. They’re able to make a reservation now.”

Miller believes some visitors are weighing their journey choices, with extra locations and occasions open to guests than in recent times. Some are ready for the climate to enhance after an abnormally moist June. And a few are involved about financial uncertainty and fluctuating gasoline costs.

“I believe we’re in a restoration now,” she stated. “The dimensions is settling, as a result of for the previous three years it was tipped in Maine’s favor.”


Summer season theater, live shows and annual occasions such because the North Atlantic Blues Competition in Rockland and the Yarmouth Clam Competition are widely known as main drivers of tourism and in a single day stays. This 12 months, many summer season guests are scheduling getaways round exhibits akin to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at Thompson’s Level in Portland or Chris Stapleton in Bangor.

Alex Grey of Waterfront Live shows, which books live shows for the Maine Financial savings Amphitheater in Bangor, Cross Insurance coverage Area in Portland and different venues, hears the suggestions from resort operators.

“They inform us the quantity of visitors that’s targeted on our occasions,” Grey stated. “We publish a present in January for a date in June or July and their rooms are offered out for that evening.”

Maine’s unusually moist June doubtless influenced journey selections for some vacationers final month, particularly those that might need thought-about a weekend getaway from Massachusetts, New York or Canada, tourism officers stated.

However even when the climate is balmy, together with the latest Memorial Day weekend, some operators battle.

In a survey answered by 200 Maine Tourism Affiliation members, 35% stated enterprise was higher this Memorial Day weekend than final 12 months; 32% stated it was the identical as final 12 months; and 33% stated it was worse than final 12 months.

“The vast majority of companies – greater than 60% – had a good weekend,” Cameron stated. “That’s an excellent signal. Some companies are all the time going to be pessimistic about some stuff.”

Jacobson, with HospitalityMaine, stated the wet June was a disadvantage for some companies and a boon to others.

“Climate is a mixture,” she stated. “They is probably not getting pizza on the seashore, however they’re going out to dinner at a restaurant. I’m not listening to doom and gloom by any stretch, and summer season doesn’t actually kick in till the Fourth of July.”

The supply of short-term leases might show helpful to vacationers who deliberate to go tenting in Maine however have but to order a website.

June’s rain wasn’t a novel problem for members of the Maine Campground Homeowners Affiliation, which represents 185 non-public campgrounds, 12 state parks and 50 affiliated companies.

“It’s commonplace to have a moist June and it’s sometimes a gradual month for campgrounds,” stated Kathy Dyer, government director of the campground group.

“Tenting was down, however that tends to swing up and down anyway,” Dyer stated. “With the inflow of latest campers through the pandemic, July and August are full, with many websites booked final 12 months. You positively must name forward to see if there’s any availability.”

The Blakes will probably be amongst these heading to campgrounds. With the dearth of bookings at their South Portland Airbnb in July and August, they determined to take a uncommon summer season trip Down East. They’ve booked 5 nights at a campground on Cobscook Bay, close to Eastport.

“We often have visitors by the summer season and fall,” Tom Blake stated. “We’re wanting ahead to getting away.”

Workers Author Kay Neufeld contributed to this report.

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