Karen and David Batten walk with their miniature Australian shepherd, Roam, in the Old Port on a rainy Labor Day. The couple from Milwaukee, Wis., was visiting Maine while touring the East Coast. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Tom Bowes and Daniel Lemieux came to Maine to spend Labor Day weekend soaking up the sun in Ogunquit.

They weren’t about to let a little rain derail their fun.

With a beach day out of the question Monday, the two men from Nashua, New Hampshire, put on matching yellow rain jackets and headed for Portland, where they love to eat at the Miss Portland Diner and wander through shops in the Old Port.

“It’s good liquid sunshine,” Bowes said as a steady drizzle bounced off the sidewalks.

Tom Bowes, left, and Daniel Lemieux of Nashua, N.H., came to the Old Port on Monday from Ogunquit, where they were vacationing. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of a summer tourism season that brought both large numbers of visitors and challenges to businesses, among them labor shortages and supply chain issues.

There was concern at the start of the season that workforce challenges, high gas prices and inflation could torpedo Maine’s summer tourism season, the industry’s highest earning period of the year. Restaurateurs and seasonal businesses struggled to find enough workers and had to cut back open hours.


Gas prices and inflation took a bite out of tourism, with 66 percent of respondents saying they traveled less over the summer and 80 percent saying they cut back on spending, according to a AAA survey. Despite those concerns, people shelled out more than $2 billion on lodging and restaurants between January and June, according to the most recent figures from Maine Revenue Services. Officials from the Maine Turnpike Authority expected record numbers of travelers over the weekend.


Sunny, warm, dry weather and moderating gas prices made all the difference in the second half of summer, said Tony Cameron, CEO of the Maine Tourism Association. But high costs and competition for workers have worn out business owners as the season draws to a close.

“Businesses have said they are busy, just like last year, but it has been a grind,” Cameron told the Press Herald last week.

Ann Oliver talks about the summer tourist season while working at Local Color on Commercial Street on Monday.

In Portland, business owners said the quiet Labor Day was just a brief break before the arrival of more cruise ships, which can bring thousands of visitors in a single day. Their presence, along with leaf peepers who arrive by the busload, makes for a busy fall season.

Customers lined up at Holy Donut and Becky’s Diner on Commercial Street, huddling under brightly colored umbrellas and pulling hoods tight around their faces. A tour guide led a group of visitors along the waterfront, seemingly undeterred by the dreary weather.


Inside Local Color, employee Ann Oliver greeted shoppers who wandered in to peruse the colorful nautical-themed designs of shop owner Kate Nelligan. Oliver thought the rainy weather would kill business for the day, but six people were waiting outside the shop when she arrived and more soon followed.

“It’s been wonderfully, wonderfully busy all summer,” she said. “The days go fast and the people are fun.”

Before summer, Nelligan had to contend with supply chain issues by ordering all of the products for her Portland and Kennebunkport stores early. Beautiful stretches of weather throughout July and August brought lots of people to Maine and kept her stores busy, she said.

“We had the best summer ever,” Nelligan said. “We’re looking forward to quieting down a little bit and enjoying the fall with the leaf peepers.”

At Sheepscot River Pottery on Moulton Street, employee Michaela Flint stood in the open doorway, watching people wander by and waiting for customers to stop in. She’s confident the tourists will be back in droves as more cruise ships arrive and fall visitors make their way up the coast.

“I personally love a rainy day, but unfortunately it doesn’t really bring out the tourists,” she said. “It’s not a walking day.”


The unofficial end of summer coupled with rain may have temporarily slowed business at Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours, but trolleys still pulled away from the curb with passengers ready for a spin around town.

Jack Coggeshall, operations manager at Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“Yesterday was a huge day for us,” said Jack Coggeshall, operations manager for the tour company.

On Tuesday, two cruise ships are expected to bring around 7,000 passengers to Portland, Coggeshall said. That keeps the company busy throughout fall with 15 or 16 tours per day.

As tour operators loaded customers into a trolley, David and Karen Batten wandered past with their dog, Roam. The couple arrived in Portland on Monday in their Sprinter van, in which they travel the country. They were headed for Acadia – hopefully missing the busiest days there – and had to stop in Portland to check it out.

They also wanted to try a lobster roll and asked a local man working at a pet store for his recommendation. It was great, they said, and the rain didn’t spoil their stop one bit.

“Portland is a great little town,” David Batten said.



At the Casco Bay Lines terminal, passengers filled the benches inside while waiting for a ferry. Gone were the crowds that filled ferries to Peaks Island all summer.

Linda McCann waits for a ferry in Portland while returning to Long Island where she lives for part of the year. She said she is looking forward to autumn on Long Island. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Linda McCann, who splits her time between Winslow and Long Island, welcomed the break from the crowds, even though tourists don’t flock to Long Island in the same numbers as Peaks. With only 250 year-round residents, Long Island feels a bit different once beach weather ends.

McCann, who grew up there, looks forward to the quieter seasons on the island.

“The weather is great – crisp, cool fall evenings and fire pits,” she said.

In Old Orchard Beach, the vibe Monday was decidedly post-summer.


The long stretch of sandy beach was empty except for a few walkers and a man sweeping a metal detector across the sand in wide arcs. The door at the Palace Playland arcade were open and the melodic beeping of arcade games filled the square, but few people were inside playing games. The amusement park rides that twisted and turned all summer sat still.

Souvenir shops were still open, though few people were shopping for Old Orchard Beach t-shirts and novelty gifts. There were no lines outside of iconic stops like Pier Fries, Bill’s Pizza and Lisa’s Pizza.

That was fine with Isreal Rancourt and his 15-year-old daughter Victoria, who came to town for the weekend from their home in Vassalboro. They stay in Old Orchard Beach every Labor Day weekend with family from Connecticut because they love the food, nightlife and atmosphere.

The beach was mostly empty on a rainy Monday in Old Orchard Beach, except for these two swimmers who raced down to the water on the final day of the summer tourism season. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Rancourts stopped by Lisa’s Pizza for fried dough topped with butter and powdered sugar. They swear it’s the best in town.

“This is the first stop and the last stop,” Isreal Rancourt said.

John Murray, who manages Lisa’s Pizza and has worked at the popular food stand since 1978, said this was an amazing summer for businesses like this one.


“Busy, busy, busy,” he said. “Crazy.”

The Canadians, finally able to return after a prolonged border closure because of pandemic restrictions, made all the difference, Murray said. He talked to several couples this summer who came down from Quebec three or more times to make up for lost time.

Murray loves the visitors but also looks forward to the quieter days of fall while they last.

“But if we get a 70- or 80-degree weekend, everyone heads back to the beach,” he said.

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