Mark Walsh, Vice President of Ocean Properties, criticized Governor Janet Mills’ and her testing alternative for out-of-state visitors in a letter on June 9th, arguing that the recommendations and data presented by Maine’s tourism industry has been largely ignored.
“After more than a month of trying to work together, it is clear that our thoughts, efforts and collective concerns from across our industry, and local chambers of commerce, were given no weight,” Walsh said.
Gov. Mills’ new “Keep Maine Healthy” plan, effective July 1st, requires out-of-state visitors to either quarantine for two weeks or test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their arrival. Visitors from New Hampshire and Vermont are exempt from the rule.
Walsh claims that the easing of restrictions for New Hampshire and Vermont residents will do little to boost tourism in Maine. New Hampshire and Vermont account for only 6 percent of Maine’s tourism, while New York and Massachusetts make up 35 percent, according to the Office of Tourism.
The hotelier, who owns 11 properties in Maine, encouraged Gov. Mills’ to remove travel restrictions for all out-of-state visitors. In the letter, he notes that of the 31,000 rooms rented in Maine since March 15, no guest has contracted the virus.
“These are not assumptions or theories. These are real results from nine hotels in the state of Maine that have been operating safely to accommodate first responders, healthcare workers, construction workers and people on vacation,” Walsh said.
Walsh also makes clear the economic consequences of Gov. Mills’ plan, noting that the Maine tourism industry has been losing approximately $17,000,000 per day since Memorial Day.
“We explained in detail having cumbersome, illegal and unproven testing requirements is a disaster for Maine tourism, especially when you are trying to roll it out in the middle of June with 90 days left in the season,” he writes.
Lindsey Crete, Gov. Mills’ secretary of press, responded to the letter, saying that the administration took Ocean Properties’ ideas into consideration but that their proposal presented too high of a health risk.
“The administration worked hard to create a plan that provides an alternative to the 14-day quarantine, that provides visitors the opportunity to support our businesses, and that protects the lives and health of Maine people, visitors, and lodging establishment employees” Crete said.
“We believe the plan allows us to market Maine as a safe place to visit, which tourists have said they weigh heavily when considering where to travel, and it will help protect against outbreaks in our tourist destinations, which would devastate their reputations and financial prospects for years to come.”
Other representatives from Maine’s tourism industry have also expressed frustration with Gov. Mills’ plan, claiming that the testing alternative will still deter tourists and create unnecessary obstacles for both out-of-state visitors and hotel owners.