Lodging Groups Offer Reasonable Tourism Re-Open Plan
submitted by Dan Cashman
“Work With ME” launches Monday, with hotels looking to remove 14-day quarantine.
AUGUSTA, MAINE – 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” launched Monday with supporters urging Gov. Mills to eliminate the 14-day quarantine, and replace it with responsible solutions to keeping residents and visitors to Maine safe.
“We have been actively trying to convey the extreme harm that the 14-day quarantine requirement has and will continue to have on our economy from the moment it was announced by Governor Mills,” said Eben Salvatore, Director of Operations at Bar Harbor Resorts. “We knew immediately it was going to have a devastating effect on us and our entire state. Unfortunately everyone got to see just how much trouble we are in over Memorial Day weekend. The few restaurants that tried to operate in Bar Harbor for the Holiday weekend have reported losses between 70-95% over last year. The pain is now real. Further delays are digging a hole for our associates and business that may be impossible to recover from.”
The group of owners represents properties serving 18 municipalities, with 38 hotels and
employing 3,175 people. 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.
“There is no question that we have the procedures and protocols to take extra measures to keep people safe,” said Connie Russell, General Manager at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. “We have implemented very thorough and effective safety protocols designed to keep our employees, customers, and the communities we operate in as safe as possible. The mandate of a 14-day quarantine for every out-of-state visitor is not workable and is helping to destroy Maine’s economy. Having a responsible plan allowing for common sense actions to be taken to ensure safety is a very achievable goal, but time is not on our side. We have to act now. We call on Governor Mills to work with us and lift the quarantine immediately.”
A plan was presented to the Mills Administration in late April by some members of the group through Hospitality Maine. While it was received positively, no action has been taken to implement or discuss it further. Meanwhile, in addition to the tens of thousands of hospitality jobs at risk, the empty hotels all across Maine are having a crippling effect on the financial health of local communities.
An updated plan has been developed and includes strict adherence to many state guidelines. Like the state’s plan, a phased-in approach to opening is recommended, with initial strict requirements for social distancing, limiting group gatherings, and no breakfast buffets at hotels where it is normally offered.
“No visitors means no retail customers shopping, no families dining out, or taking part in so many other activities that rely on visitors to remain viable. Even the price of lobster is plummeting because nobody is buying and there is nobody here to eat it “said Salvatore.
Overall, Maine’s hospitality sector had a statewide economic contribution, including multiplier effects, of an estimated $6.9 billion in output, 79,000 full- and part-time jobs, and $2.2 billion in labor income, according to a study released last fall.
“There is a balance between keeping our population healthy and keeping our economy healthy,” said Russell. “The tourism industry cares about the people of this state as much as anyone. Our industry consulted National CDC guidelines and prepared plans to safely and responsibly operate our hotels, motels and lodging establishments with safety measures that exceed requirements. We are prepared to protect our guests and our employees and do our part to preserve Maine’s economy. We’re quickly running out of time. We’re asking Governor Mills to immediately end the fourteen-day quarantine and allow us the chance to provide responsible commerce.”
Currently, Gov. Mills’ plan calls for a 14-day quarantine for any out-of-state visitors entering Maine, with no set timetable for its expiration. The result has been a whirlwind of cancellations from potential visitors, lost revenues, and widespread anxiety about the future of the industry in Maine.
“We understand that lifting the quarantine doesn’t put us back to normal, but we ask the governor to place some confidence in the Maine people and give us the opportunity to go back to work. Look at the facts that some of our hotels have operated safely here in Maine and New England during the pandemic with no staff getting sick.”said Salvatore. “Ultimately, the recommendations come down to doing your job, But if we are going to get anywhere, we need to start today with lifting the quarantine. We must do what we can to put Maine back on the map, before businesses close for good.”
The group has set up a website, www.WorkWithMaine.com, with information about the plan to re-open safely, a place for businesses or individuals to sign up and add their voices to the coalition, and updates.
“Our request is to immediately drop the quarantine, but our plan starts when the administration acts,” said Russell. “We were asked to act responsibly to flatten the curve. Mainers did so, and the curve has been flattened. There are no outbreaks in hotels nationwide. A recent NPR study listed staying in a hotel as a low risk. We can continue to act responsibly, and safely open our doors so our economic health is also preserved.”
More details can be found at www.WorkWithMaine.com.