ROCKPORT, Maine(NEWS CENTER) - Maine's tourist industry is coming off a very good year - and business owners say that so far, 2013 looks to be just as good.
The Maine Office of Tourism shared the numbers today with industry leaders at the annual Governors Conference on Tourism, held at the Samoset Resort in Rockport.
The Department says there were more than 27 million tourist visits in Maine last year -including both Maine residents and out of state residents. Those visits pumped about five billion dollars into the state's economy.
The MOT says the overall financial impact of tourism is much larger, roughly $7.5 billion. But despite that good news, tourism leaders say they're concerned there may be a new effort in the Legislature to increase the state's seven percent tax on meals and lodging. The possibility of hiking the tax, at least the portion on lodging, is being talked about by some legislators as a way to get more revenue for the next two-year budget.
Greg Dugal of the Maine Innkeepers Association says he believes this would not be a good time to raise the tax, and that Maine can't afford to be more costly than other comparable states. And it looks like the industry may find support from the Governor as well.
A tourist industry group met with Gov. LePage about the issue on Wednesday, and the Governor said today Maine is still too heavily taxed, and that supporters of the increase "... better have a good argument for it" if they want him to agree.
The Maine Office of Tourism gets its funding for tourism promotion from a five percent share of the meals and lodging tax. Tourism Director Carol-Ann Oullette says this year that amounts to ni$9.6 million.
A total of $2.7 billion spent on meals and rooms in Maine last year, according to the Innkeepers Association.