Customers outside Johnny Shucks in Old Orchard Beach on Saturday. Krysta Norris, one of the managers at the restaurant, said business has been good despite the rainy summer. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — A Labor Day weekend of blue skies and balmy temperatures has given a needed boost to businesses that depend on tourism dollars in Maine.

Among the many enjoying the late-summer conditions were Helene Castonguay and her sister Josie. They were thrilled to be at the beach Saturday during what’s been the seventh-wettest summer on record for Portland, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Sarah Thunberg.

Even in Castonguay’s hometown of Sherbrooke, Quebec, “this summer it was raining, raining, raining – a lot of rain,” Castonguay said.

It’s made for an up-and-down season for many local business owners.

A motel guest stands on their balcony overlooking the water in Old Orchard Beach on Saturday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Jody Piazza works the front desk at the Aquarius Motel, with an inviting patio overlooking the surf in Old Orchard Beach. Piazza said the motel was not as busy this summer as it was last summer, but it was busy enough. A “no vacancy” sign let the public know the motel was full.

“June was very slow. There were only three or four days in June when it didn’t rain,” Piazza said. But as the summer wore on and the number of rainy days decreased, “July picked up quite a bit. August was the same.” The hotel was booked for the weekend, and it’s already booking for next summer, she said.


On the beach, Jodi Flaherty, of Raynham, Massachusetts, watched her daughters, Kyla, 11, and Francesca, 12, play in the sand Saturday. Flaherty said she had reservations for the last week in August, but when she saw rain in the forecast, she rescheduled her trip to this weekend.

She was all smiles about the sun. They enjoyed Friday in the amusement park and did some shopping. On Saturday, they spent the day at the beach. “We love it,” Flaherty said. “It’s beautiful here.”

Francesca Camozzi, 12, left, and Kyla Flaherty, 11, dig a hole in the sand in Old Orchard Beach on Saturday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Statewide, it wasn’t a banner season for tourism business, “but it hasn’t been a bad summer, either,” said Becky Jacobson, interim executive director of HospitalityMaine, which represents the lodging and restaurant industries.

“It’s been more like the summer of 2019 than last summer,” Jacobson said. “The summer of 2022 was off the charts because of pent-up demand following the pandemic. People couldn’t wait to get out and go where they had planned to go in 2020 and 2021.”

Tourism remains a primary economic driver in Maine, with 15.4 million visitors tallied in 2022, down slightly from 15.6 million in 2021, according to the Maine Office of Tourism.

Tourists spent more than $8.6 billion here last year, supporting 151,000 jobs and contributing nearly $5.6 billion in earnings to Maine households. Visitors to the state also saved each Maine household $2,172 in state and local taxes last year.


Acadia National Park, one of the state’s major attractions, racked up 3.97 million visits last year, which injected $479 million into the local economy and supported nearly 6,700 jobs, for a cumulative economic benefit of $691 million, according to a new National Park Service report.

This year, visitors flocked to Maine for summer’s seasonal kickoff on Memorial Day weekend, when the Maine Turnpike Authority reported a 6.8% increase in traffic over the same weekend in 2022.

“Popular destinations like Popham Beach State Park regularly sent alerts throughout the summer that their parking was full by late morning on nice days,” said Jennifer Geiger, spokesperson for the Maine Office of Tourism.

But it seems rainy weather in much of June and July had an impact on tourism in Maine, she said.

Camping in Maine’s state parks was down 4% through August, and day visits were down 15.9% for the same period, Geiger said.

Lodging occupancy in Maine was down by about 2.5% in July, according to Smith Travel Research, a hospitality analytics firm. However, Maine faired better than Vermont and New Hampshire, where occupancy was down 6.8% and 4.6%, respectively, Geiger said.


Moreover, early data on domestic travel trends indicate that tourists are finally feeling comfortable taking international trips again, resulting in a nationwide decrease in domestic travel, she said.

News was more positive from the Portland International Jetport, where the number of passengers in June and July increased 63,584, or 13%, from 452,339 in 2022 to 515,923, said assistant airport director Zachary Sundquist.

“It’s been a really strong summer,” Sundquist said. “There’s a lot of demand for Maine. We expect the numbers will continue to be strong through August, soften a bit in September and pick up again in October for the foliage season.”

Beachgoers pack Old Orchard Beach on Saturday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The Maine Turnpike also saw a significant uptick in travel this summer, with a total increase of 1.2 million toll transactions, or 4.6%, through June, July and most of August. There were 25.3 million toll transactions during that period in 2022 compared to 26.5 million this year, said Erin Courtney, a spokesperson for the Turnpike Authority.

Roger and Tamara Roberge, of Berlin, New Hampshire, drove their motor home to southern Maine and camped this summer. When it rained, they made their own sunshine.

“We haven’t let the rain spoil it,” Tamara Roberge said. “We just bring our rain jackets, and we go. It’s New England; you’re not going to get perfect weather.”


Krysta Norris, a manager at Johnny Shucks Maine Lobster, said the restaurant in Old Orchard Beach opened for the first time in May. The restaurant receives lobster and other seafood from the Johnny Shucks shellfishing company.

“June was rough,” Norris said. “But once it hit July, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays we were busy.”

On days when the rain never stopped, business was slow, but some customers still came through, Norris said. “We’d see people walking up and down the street with their ponchos and umbrellas.”

Despite the rain, overall “business has been very good.”

People line up to order from Allan Buotte, at right behind the counter, at Pier French Fries, the business he owns with his wife, Tiffany, in Old Orchard Beach on Saturday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Ditto for Pier French Fries and Bill’s Pizza, owned by Allan and Tiffany Buotte. At the end of June, summer felt delayed, and business was half of what it normally was. But by early September, “it’s going a lot better now that we’ve had some warmer days,” Tiffany Buotte said.

Compared to last summer, the numbers are down, she said. When it’s not a beach day, “we just don’t get the locals.” But overall this summer Pier French Fries is doing OK.

“We have a great following,” Tiffany Buotte said as a line of customers waited for their crinkle-cut fries. “The tourists are here, and they’re going to eat.” And, she added, “we’re very happy to have this weather.” Last year, it rained on the Labor Day weekend, and the tourists left early. With good beach weather of temperatures in the 80s, tourists will stay, she said. “It’ll be a better weekend than last year.”

The immediate forecast offers more beach days, with warm weather and no rain expected until the end of the week.

Gabi Mills, 17, left, and her sister Willa Crow, 15, cover Mills’ boyfriend, Michael Thomas, in sand while hanging out next to the water in Old Orchard Beach on Saturday. Mills said she and Thomas, who are from Derby, Vt., came down to Old Orchard Beach over the Fourth of July, and it rained most of the days. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

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