stimulus funding

COVID Relief Bill Has Maine Innkeepers Optimistic for Future

Before the pandemic, hundreds of Maine's small inns and bed and breakfasts were already trying to stave off competition from short-term rental properties

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Many Maine innkeepers have a more optimistic outlook on the first part of 2021 now that Congress has passed a new round of stimulus funding.

In years preceding the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of Maine's small inns and bed and breakfasts were already trying to stave off competition from short-term rental properties and AirBnb.

Then in the spring, the pandemic dramatically altered the economy and tourism industry, forcing some inns to shut down for months or for good.

"We've seen inns close throughout the year," said Steve Hewins, the President and CEO of HospitalityMaine, an industry group for businesses like restaurants and inns with over 1,000 members.

Hewins added that restaurants and hotels in Maine will pull in 30% to 33% less revenue than the $6.9-billion they netted last year.

"It's a huge drop," he explained.

Innkeepers like Elizabeth Arruda, who owns The Inn at English Meadow in Kennebunk, have seen that loss first hand.

But the relief bill passed by Congress will provide paycheck protection loans for restaurants, hotels and other hospitality companies, according to HospitalityMaine. Those businesses will be able to ask for loans up to 3.5 times their payroll and are based on 2.5 times monthly payroll costs, according to the Portland Press Herald.

After seeing a 30% to 45% drop in business in 2020 and prior to the relief package clearing Congress, Arruda told NECN and NBC10 Boston she was "definitely wondering whether I'd be able to stay open or keep my couple of winter employees on the payroll."

"To have my payroll covered through June with utilities potentially, that'll be huge," Arruda said.

Going forward, there will still be challenges for Maine's inns and its tourism economy as a whole, ones that industry leaders think will take vaccines, marketing and a lot of time to solve.

"People need to be vaccinated then we need to encourage people to travel again," said Hewins, adding that he thinks it may take "three or four years" for Maine to rebound to 2019 tourism numbers.

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