ST. ANDREWS, N.B. -- The summer of 2020 draws to a close on Tuesday after perhaps the most difficult summer on record for the Maritime tourism industry.   

Now, business owners have to decide whether to close up shop for the year, or stay open into the traditional shoulder season, and try to recoup some of the summer’s losses.

"I think everybody made the best of it," said Rob Carney, who operates a whale-watching tour company. "We still had thousands of people out on the board. Lot slower than last year, but that's to be expected."

After a season without American tourists, and with very few visitors from central Canada, the tourist town of St. Andrews, N.B., says the pandemic summer was actually better than expected.

"New Brunswickers and, of course, the Atlantic bubble, they saved summer," said St. Andrews deputy mayor Brad Henderson. "It was a situation very early on, you started to wonder if there would be businesses that closed their doors, not just for the season but forever. I'm not as concerned about that anymore."

Though the losses of 2020 continue to be felt all over the East Coast.

Cruise ships make up a huge part of the fall tourism season in the Maritimes, and so do the fall foliage bus tours that come from the United States, Ontario and Quebec.

In the absence of those, many people in the Maritime tourism industry are wondering how long to stay open this season.

"We're running until the end of October," said Brian Usher, the Minister's Island executive director. "We want to be realistic though. If there is a drop-off, you balance meeting a tourist demand with also the financial realities."

Visits to Ministers Island were down about 25 per cent, but the historic attraction expected much worse. So they're hopeful the tourist industry has hit bottom and will bounce back.

"If these are the worst conditions, and let's assume that," Usher said. "If these are the worst conditions and we can manage under these conditions, with those numbers, overall, I think it's going to be positive going forward."

As for the whale watchers, they're not ready to call it a season just yet.

"Sure it will be slower, but we enjoy it too," said Carney. "It's a lot of fun. So we'll be around, if we get a few people, we'll be here."

Many tourist businesses say they'll stay open to serve the handful of visitors that the autumn of 2020 is likely to bring.