The Impact of Climate Change On Tourism in Maine
S. Reiling, School of Forest Resources

Summer Recreation:

Warmer summer temperatures are expected to have a positive effect on summer tourism in Maine. Maine's summer temperatures are quite mild relative to much of the U.S., including southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, where most of the summer tourists who visit Maine reside. Maine is often viewed as a place to escape the heat and humidity that is common farther south. Assuming this differential continues to hold, Maine should continue to provide a cooler alternative, thus resulting in, at a minimum, no change in summer tourism during the prime tourist season of mid-June through mid-August.

Tourism growth could occur during the so-called "shoulder seasons" of May through mid-June, and mid-August through October. There is excess capacity in the tourism sector during these shoulder seasons and additional tourists could be accommodated without difficulty. Warmer temperatures may extend the traditional summer recreation and tourism activities into these shoulder seasons and result in a longer summer tourism season in Maine. These observations assume that other characteristics do not change, i.e., rising sea levels do not flood the coast and its tourism infrastructure, and the fall foliage season is not adversely affected.

Winter Recreation:

Based on the logic of the previous section, one may expect that warmer temperatures in the winter would result in fewer tourists. Less snow or inconsistent (both temporally and geographically) snowfall could have a negative impact on downhill skiing and snowmobiling, the two largest winter recreation activities. This is a potential outcome; however, it may be that certain areas of the state (north and mountains) will still receive sufficient snowfall to support these activities, while southern regions of the state may not. If this were the case, the activities would be displaced and concentrated in those locations that consistently get the snowfall needed to support the activities. If this were to happen, the existing infrastructure that supports the visitors would need to be expanded to accommodate more participants.

It is important to consider the differential effects across the eastern region of the U.S. If southern regions (NY, PA, etc.) no longer received enough snowfall to support these winter activities, residents of those states may come to Maine to participate in the activities, which could result in growth in winter tourism in Maine.


Predicting the impact of global warming on recreation and tourism in Maine is difficult at best. Three important things to consider are: magnitude of the temperature change in each month/season of the year; the impact of these temperature changes on the characteristics of Maine that attract visitors in the first place; and the differential effect of temperature changes in Maine relative to the rest of New England and the mid-Atlantic states.

l effect of temperature changes in Maine relative to the rest of New England and the mid-Atlantic states.