Seasonal businesses across Maine are dusting off their menus and freshening up their hotel rooms in anticipation of the start of a new tourist season.

In Camden, a new restaurant called Buttermilk Kitchen at Marriner’s recently opened its doors. A few days later, iconic lobster shack Red’s Eats in Wiscasset welcomed its first customers of the season.

The Tugboat Inn & Restaurant in Boothbay Harbor opened Thursday and in Old Orchard Beach, popular eateries Bill’s Pizza and Pier French Fries are back at it.

The 2024 season follows a year in which tourist visits were down slightly, but those who did come to Maine stayed longer and spent more money, said Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism.

A rainy spring may be one reason 2023 visits were down 0.6% compared to the 2022 totals. By the numbers, 15.3 million people visited Maine last year.

Spending increased nearly 5%.

“What we saw was people are spending a little more money and spending a little more time here,” Lyons said.

Direct tourism expenditures topped $9 billion, with tourism supporting 131,000 jobs.

And while tourism officials are optimistic about another strong year, the number of visitors to Maine has yet to reach the pre-pandemic level of 16.4 million in 2019.

One Maine destination that continues to see steady visitation despite the pandemic is Acadia National Park, which saw 3.44 million visitors in 2019 and a record-setting 4 million in 2021. Visits have cooled a bit in the last two years, coming in at 3.88 million in 2023, according to Statista.

Becky Jacobson, executive director of industry advocate group HospitalityMaine, said the rain in May and June last year reduced the number of visitors, particularly for destinations in southern Maine easily reachable by car.

So far this year, she said advanced bookings appear to be down, but that “the sky is not falling.”

“I think everybody is keeping their fingers crossed for sunshine,” she said.

When it comes to staff, hotels and restaurants had much more luck hiring last year than in 2022, when a rush of tourists eager to leave the pandemic behind overwhelmed many places, Jacobson said.

But with an aging population and more employment options for younger workers, staffing will be a constant challenge.

“It certainly isn’t a problem that’s going away,” she said.

Lyons said it’s difficult to predict how the approaching summer season will go but noted that droughts tend to drive visitors to Maine. Recent statistics released by the state also show that most people who visit the state — 97% — would recommend Maine to friends and family.

Lyons said he heard from at least one lodging owner that the April 8 total solar eclipse drew in visitors who said they plan to come back.

And 30% of those who arrive by cruise ship say they will return for a non-seafaring vacation.

When asked what the public should know about the coming season, Jacobson had one request.

“If everybody could do a no rain dance, that would be lovely,” she said.