By: Fred Bevers, Maine Public
For more than a week, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have been encouraging travel around northern New England as a step toward reviving their tourism-dependent economies that have been suppressed by the pandemic. But where exactly you hail from can make a big difference in your ability to move about freely.
Last week, Maine Gov. Janet Mills threw open the doors for New Hampshire and Vermont residents to visit and stay in Maine without any sort of quarantine.
“As you look at the data, the three states have similar health outcomes,” said Heather Johnson, Maine’s commissioner of economic and community development.
With case rates that have generally been much lower than urban areas in New England, and with daily case rates declining in all three states since mid-May, Johnson said it made sense for Maine to revise the rules.
“Once you get outside of the [three] states, it’s a pretty big difference, so it became clear that was a logical break point,” she said.
Unlike Maine, New Hampshire is not making distinctions among travelers from northern and southern New England, or anywhere else.
“The current policy is that New Hampshire residents are welcome to move about the state freely, stay in lodging properties, et cetera,” said Mike Somers, president of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association. “Out-of-state visitors are required to essentially attest that they have been isolated, at home, for 14 days.”
Lodging operators are asked to get guests to sign a document attesting that they have met the standard and do not have any symptoms.
“I think it certainly presents challenges, don’t get me wrong. This time of year all of us northern New Englanders certainly enjoy having out-of-state visitors. It’s a big part of our local economies. And so these businesses are legitimately trying to figure out ways to navigate this,” Somers said.
That makes New Hampshire hotel and campground operators the envy of their counterparts in Maine, where most out-of-state visitors are barred until the very end of the month. Even then they will face an array of options for quarantines or testing lodging operators say are a turn-off for potential visitors.
Tina Hewitt-Gordon, the general manager of Kennebunkport’s seaside Nonantum Inn, said every time the state adjusts its travel rules, southern Maine sees a rash of cancellations.
“So if they’re not staying at our hotels they’re not going to the restaurants, they’re not going to the retail shops,” Hewitt-Gordon said. “And the long-term effect is just devastating, because what happens next year when they go to make their travel reservations they say ‘hey, wait a minute, we really had a great time in New Hampshire, let’s not go to Maine let’s go to New Hampshire.'”
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