The Songo River Queen II sets off to bring visitors on a tour of Long Lake this week. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

NAPLES — Despite a rainy spring, which started the season off slowly, tourism around the Lakes Region was business as usual this summer – strong.

The Highland Lake Resort in Bridgton has “been jammed,” said Kathleen Landry, who works in the front office. Despite poor weather early on in the season, she said “we have been very busy.”

The resort welcomes travelers from “all over,” from as far away as California.

Patty Douthett, the owner of Lakeview Inn in Naples, agreed.

“Summer’s been great,” she said, but “spring was slow because of all the rain we had.”

She even guessed that this summer was busier than last year was.

While most of the inn’s visitors hail from the New England area, Douthett said, there are some who travel from overseas, including Germany.

Boaters prepare to set out on Long Lake. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

Darryl Murray reported a similar phenomenon. He said that Freedom Cafe and Pub in Naples, which he owns, is filled with visitors from New England during the height of its season, which is late June through early August.

As the season continues, he said, more and more Europeans visit the cafe, especially tourists from the UK and Germany.

Murray said the summer months “have been extremely strong” at the cafe, even better than he expected.

Yet, he struggles to find and retain quality staff at his business, an issue that is plaguing businesses across the state.

It used to be hard to get good people. Now it’s just hard to get people,” he said. “We have to get very creative on how we attract and retain people.”

Black Bear Cafe in Naples struggles with the same problem, said owner John Bohill. “Fortunately, we’ve been around long enough and have a good reputation, so people come back,” he said. 

Bohill said the cafe had “a terrific season,” and “July and August were picture perfect.”

With the summer drawing to a close, businesses hope to continue to attract customers for a while longer. The Highland Lake Resort and Lakeview Inn close on Oct. 31, and Freedom Cafe and Pub closes on Columbus Day.

Douthett said that tourism slows down after Labor Day, although she thinks that September through mid-November “is the best time of the year around here.”

Right now the lakes are warm, the days and nights are starting to cool down, so you get a feeling of fall in the air,” she said. 

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