On Wednesday, May 20th the Board of Directors of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Governor Janet Mills asking her to lift the 14 day quarantine for visitors from out of state.

With the permission of Alf Anderson, the Executive Director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, here is the letter that was sent...

Dear Governor Mills:

We write to you today, with the hope to save not only the local businesses of Bar Harbor, but the livelihood of their families, employees, our community and so many others in this state that depend on tourism to put food on their table.  With each day that passes and no news of lifting the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors, our industry and those that depend on our industry, are losing hope to salvage some of our short season.

When the quarantine period was first announced, many visitors planning to visit in May rescheduled to June.  As the days grow closer to their scheduled vacations, guests are now cancelling and taking their families elsewhere.  Our membership is reporting massive amounts of cancellations for June and guests have started cancelling their July and August reservations, as well.  Despite our best efforts to convince visitors that things will change based on what we have been told, increasingly visitors that had been holding out hope, have now given up.  Historically, Maine residents have accounted for 10% of the visitation business in an entire season. Given the current economic fragility in Maine, it is clear that Bar Harbor will not see that 10%. The forecast from our lodging membership is dismal to say the least. In-state tourism is not enough and the quarantine rule is driving people away.

Our largest lodging operators, some of the biggest in the State of Maine, are not open for Memorial Day Weekend. This weekend is typically the kickoff to our very short tourist season, and the bulk of our lodging properties are closed. There are no visitors to patronize the restaurants or shops, grab an ice cream, rent a bike, or enjoy many of our mostly outdoor activities. And it gets worse.

At a recent board meeting the same lodging members informed us based on current occupancy forecasts, they may not open at all this season and those who own several properties, may only open a portion of their businesses. Almost every business in Bar Harbor relies on the visitors that stay in our local lodging establishments. If lodging cannot open, many of our businesses will fail.  There is not enough in-state visitation business to support our local businesses.

The question we keep hearing from various state and local organizations is “What’s going to happen when the flood of visitors comes?” Our answer is this: We will do our job. In addition to the current state guidelines that provide a safe and healthy environment, we have created our own Best Practices document (attached), that was forwarded previously to Commissioner Johnson. We are very confident the businesses of Bar Harbor will implement these practices and provide a safe environment for all to enjoy.

The announcement last week that lodging may take reservations from out-of-state travelers was a brief moment of hope. Unfortunately, it means nothing while the 14-day quarantine remains in place. We are urging you to please remove the 14-day quarantine by June 1 at the latest and allow us the opportunity to show you what we are capable of. Hospitality is our business. We will not let you down.

If you would like to learn more about the safety plans our lodging businesses have put in place or discuss any of the above with us, please contact Alf Anderson, Executive Director of the Bar Harbor Chamber at alf@visitbarharbor.com or (cell phone number redacted)

Sincerely,

Board of Directors

Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce