This Fourth of July will be over in a flash, and that’s causing some pain for businesses that have gotten used to long holiday weekends.

The last time July 4 fell on a Wednesday was 2007. Since then, it has been on or next to a weekend, so Independence Day has been a multi-day celebration.

“When the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday, sales are usually down,” said Charles Colgan, professor of public policy and management at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. “Over the summer, though, it will all balance out. People will take another weekend to come up and spend money later in the season.”

Tourism spending is crucial to Maine, creating a total economic impact of $7.7 billion a year and accounting for 108,000 jobs, according to the Maine Tourism Association.

For hotels, this year’s midweek holiday will split travelers’ time a bit. People appear to be celebrating early, according to advance hotel bookings.

“This coming weekend looks excellent from Bar Harbor to Ogunquit,” said Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association. “The weekend after the Fourth needs some work, though.”

This weekend, hotel and motel occupancy rates vary from 50 percent inland to 75 percent or higher in coastal towns. Occupancy for next weekend is at an average of 50 percent across the state, Dugal said.

For Wednesday, the actual holiday, occupancy rates are roughly 50 percent, which is normal for a midweek holiday but lower than when the holiday falls on a weekend, Dugal said.

Last year, the Fourth of July was a Monday, so travelers turned the holiday into a long weekend and helped fill hotels for several nights.

Dugal said he expects a lot of last-minute, impulse travel on the Fourth of July if the weather is nice, so occupancy rates could increase.

“We need hot weather in the rest of New England so people want to come here and cool off,” Dugal said. “It needs to stop raining – that would help.”

In Freeport, where L.L. Bean will celebrate its 100th anniversary with fireworks, concerts and street festivals, the Brewster House Inn still has rooms available for Wednesday, but both weekends are booked.

“A midweek Fourth is always different. We still have a few rooms available Wednesday, but we’re as busy as if it were a summer weekend,” said Scott Thomas, co-owner of the inn. “Overall, we’re certainly seeing people earlier than normal. Earlier in June and mid-June, which is good.”

Maine restaurateurs are hoping for the best, but acknowledge that the midweek holiday could spread out their business.

“The Wednesday holiday will make for an interesting year,” said Dick Grotton, president and chief executive officer of the Maine Restaurant Association. “In a perfect world, we get it both ways – two long weekends of people celebrating. We’ll see what happens.”

The restaurant association doesn’t track holiday traffic volume.

“Whether it’s people eating pizza out of the box in their hotel room or whether lobster is king or fine dining is their preference, people will be eating and celebrating,” Grotton said.

A lot hangs on the weather, which is expected to be warm and sunny for the next several days, except for some afternoon thunderstorms. Temperatures are expected to be in the 80s to low 90s.

“It doesn’t look bad,” said Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “During the summer, you can expect some afternoon thunderstorms and it doesn’t ruin your day.”

Tourism could get a boost from falling gas prices, experts said.

Gas prices have fallen to an average of $3.41 a gallon in Maine, down from $3.69 a gallon a month ago and about $3.62 a gallon a year ago, according to www.mainegasprices.com.

To accommodate holiday travelers, all road construction projects in the state will be halted at noon Tuesday, said Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation.

“There’s 26 million people who live within an eight-hour drive,” Grotton said. “It’s been hot in Boston and New York, and that’s good for us because people will come here to cool down.”

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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