KENNEBUNKPORT — Maine’s twin hospitality trade groups will merge into a single organization next year.

The new group, which hasn’t been named, will replace the Maine Innkeepers Association and Maine Restaurant Association.

“Today nearly all industry issues are equally shared by restaurants and hotels or have an impact on one another,” Steve Hewins, president and CEO of both associations, said in a presentation Tuesday morning at the Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport during the first Maine Hospitality Summit.

“I was always amazed at how fragmented this industry is,” Hewins said. “We need to speak as a more unified voice.”

Hospitality is one of the state’s major industries. Restaurants and lodging had combined revenue of $3.5 billion in 2016 and employed 77,000 people, more than manufacturing, construction or hospitals, according to Maine Department of Labor data.

Despite the industry’s size and importance to Maine’s thriving tourism economy, it is facing intense labor challenges and disruption from new consumer preferences and technologies such as Airbnb. Banding together will provide better representation where it matters and help the association lobby more effectively, Hewins said.

“Hospitality is undervalued by the Maine public and ignored by policymakers,” he said. “I don’t think the demand for Maine is on the wane. I think were are going to be inhibited by other factors.”

In many ways, the planned merger will be more cosmetic than substantive. The restaurant and innkeepers associations are both operated by Hospitality Association Management Services and share key staff such as Hewins and Greg Dugal, the former president and current director of government affairs for both associations.

The boards of directors of both groups voted unanimously to join a combined organization and work committees are being formed to organize finances, membership, governance and other issues, Hewins said. The new organization could launch as early as next spring, he said.

“We have a super-diverse membership, but we all have a commonality,” Hewins said. “We are definitely stronger together.”

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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