Maine is among the top summer travel destinations in the world, lodging site Airbnb said Wednesday.
Maine was ranked eighth on a list of the top summer destinations worldwide based on searches from the first quarter of 2022. The state was the only American location on the list, which also included Ibiza in Spain and a town on the Italian island of Sardinia. Turkey’s port city of Bodrum was No. 1.
Airbnb travel has been growing in Maine. Hosts in Maine earned more than $180 million in Maine in 2021, $20 million of which came from new hosts, a company spokesperson said. That is nearly double the $91 million in income statewide hosts made in 2019, according to company data.
The upsurge in popularity Maine has seen on Airbnb in recent years reflects the boost in interest it saw during the COVID-19 pandemic in a state already known as a travel destination, said Tracy Michaud, a professor of tourism at the University of Southern Maine.
“People were really looking for nature, outdoor recreational opportunities, fresh air, space,” Michaud said. “Maine has always had a brand of being authentic and relatively safe. It’s not a surprise there’s been an uptick in Airbnbs.”
That spike is likely to be of great assistance to restaurants, bars and shops, among other businesses across the state. It also has the potential to put further pressure on a housing market where short-term rentals appear to be reducing the supply of available homes.
Michaud said there was evidence that had occurred in Maine, especially in urban areas that have seen prices skyrocket. However, communities including Portland and South Portland had put in successful regulations to help offset negative impacts on the housing market, she said.
The state saw a surge of tourism last summer, with summer 2022 expected to surpass those numbers. For many, Airbnbs have felt safer during the pandemic than sharing space with others in a hotel, Michaud said. Several locations allow guests to check in themselves, she noted.
That self-check in system has worked out well for guests, said Melissa Phipps, general manager of the 19-room Open Hearth Inn in Trenton. Though guests can book a spot in the inn directly and through short-term rental site VRBO, she estimated that 75 percent of bookings came through Airbnb.
Most who come to the inn are looking for a place to stay while they go to nearby Acadia National Park. They are almost completely booked for the summer with many being attracted by the lower prices that come with being located just off Mount Desert Island, Phipps said.
“We’re not on the island, so we don’t have island prices,” she said. “People like that they can still have easy access to all of it.”
Visitors have come from all over the country and the world, including France, she said. While Airbnb no longer releases regional data, Hancock County saw the most visitors per capita of any Maine county in 2019.
While coastal areas see a bulk of Airbnb travelers in Maine, inland travel bookings grew more than 40 percent worldwide in the first quarter of 2022 compared to that same time in 2019. Some of the places most helped by Airbnb stays are rural areas that have fewer lodging options than tourist centers like Mount Desert Island and Portland, Michaud said.
Michaud noted that “Vacationland” relied on tourism, with around 1 in 5 Mainers employed in the industry. Though few are fans of increased traffic or a dwindling number of spots in local restaurants on weekends, it helps put money in the pockets of countless Mainers.
“Visitors that come are spending money in our local businesses,” Michaud said. “We all benefit from that.”