A recent column in this newspaper by Chris Fogg and Steve Hewins focused on the fact that tourism is our largest private industry in Maine (“Maine Compass: Tourism should be part of Maine economic development plan,” Sept. 19). Last year 37 million tourists spent $6.2 billion, sustaining 110,000 jobs and contributing $610 million in taxes.

Fogg and Hewins emphasized the importance of tourism to rural Maine, and the fact that many come here to enjoy our special undeveloped areas and natural resources. I’m very proud of the fact that throughout my career I helped protect many of those special places through the creation of the Land for Maine’s Future program and other initiatives. I was very disappointed when Republicans in the Legislature prevented us from voting for another LMF bond issue this fall.

Unfortunately, many tourism businesses are struggling and I wish that Fogg and Hewins had shared some of the struggles with you. Perhaps they should write another column about this.

My wife Linda and I wrote weekly travel columns for this newspaper for seven years. It was a wonderful experience, especially getting to know the people in the tourism industry. For example, in the summer in many of our coastal hotels and inns, we met a lot of employees from Europe, working here with temporary visas.

And these people were very friendly. At the Blue Nose Inn in Bar Harbor, for example,  every one of them, from people cleaning our room to a chef working in the garden, would stop and visit with us.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration significantly reduced those temporary visas, and some hotels along the coast could not fully open because of a lack of workers.

I wrote a book about Maine sporting camps for Down East Books, and was surprised by the number of camps that are struggling. If they’re only open seasonally, mostly serving hunters and anglers, they are having a particularly difficult time. The number of hunters and anglers visiting Maine is significantly reduced, especially in the North Woods, where our deer herd has disappeared. And there are lots of great places to fish in our country and Canada.

I use Claybrook Mountain Lodge east of Kingfield as an example. When Greg and Pat Drummond opened their lodge, deer hunting was their most profitable business. Today it is their least profitable and they haven’t shot a deer in seven years. Now cross-country skiing is their most profitable business. The camps that are open year-round are doing much better serving skiers and snowmobilers.

Many of the sporting camps now offer special events and weekends to bring in guests. The Drummonds host two birding weekends at the end of May and they are always sold out. Linda and I enjoyed several of those weekends, as our guides, Ron Joseph and Greg Drummond, drove us all over that beautiful countryside to see birds. And in just a single weekend we would see more than 100 species of birds.

I have convinced quite a few people to visit Lubec and Campobello, where you can enjoy our beautiful coast without the massive crowds that you’ll find at Acadia National Park. This year we helped a Mount Vernon couple plan an anniversary celebration. They only had a weekend so I sent them to Lubec and had them stay in the local motel. And I told them to be sure and visit Monica’s Chocolates just up the road from the motel.

They were only there for about 24 hours but they visited Monica’s three times. And best of all, they brought us back a bag full of Monica’s chocolates. Yummy!

I am sure that one thing tourists love about Maine is the opportunity to discover places like Monica’s Chocolates. And we have so many beautiful places where you can enjoy a leisurely walk and picnic. At the end of June, some of our kids and grandkids joined us for a five-day visit to Lubec and Campbello. We spent one entire day on our two favorite beaches on Campobello, and only saw one couple all day. At Acadia there would have been thousands of people on the beach.

Linda and I discovered so many wonderful places in Maine when we were writing our travel columns. It was really fun to write about them and hear that lots of people visited those places after our columns were published.

For example, I’m still hearing from people who love the Mexican restaurant Vasquez in Milbridge. And even though it’s been years since we wrote that travel column, there are still two copies of it on the wall next to their take-out window. Linda and I now plan our trips to Lubec and Campobello so we’re always at Vasquez for lunch.

Yup, I guess we’re tourists too!

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.