AUGUSTA — L.L. Bean and Direct Mail of Maine have won a $500,000 state contract to handle tourism inquiries from all over the globe.
Under the three-year agreement, the Freeport retailer will handle all calls for tourism-related materials, and Direct Mail will be responsible for packaging and sending information to locations all over the world.
The Maine Publicity Bureau had handled tourism calls and filled orders for information since its inception in 1921.
Donald White, a management consultant for the bureau, said the organization is disappointed it got beaten by L.L. Bean and the Scarborough-based Direct Mail. However, the private nonprofit agency, which caters to tourism-related business, will continue to publish the materials to be sent to callers.
“Obviously no one likes to be in a position to say we weren’t the successful bidder,” White said. “But we have a phenomenal operation here and we will continue to service our membership in all the other capacities.”
The bureau received more than 200,000 calls from around the world from people wanting information about tourism attractions in Maine, seasonal activities and vacation destinations.
L.L. Bean will train 600 to 900 of its employees in the Lewiston and Portland call centers to handle the increased phone volume, said company spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett. The employees should be ready to handle the new calls by late January or February.
Bean does not anticipate hiring new employees to carry out the state tourism project. But Hartnett said employees who normally see their work weeks shortened at this time of year are apt to get additional work.
“Our [order and customer] representatives are really excited,” Hartnett said. “It’s a chance maybe to get more hours and to do something different.”
The tourism contract is the first time Bean has partnered with another company. Hartnett said Bean officials hope it will lead to other partnerships “so we can continue to be diverse.”
Theresa McCann, Direct Mail vice president, says the company expects to expand both its customer service and order-fulfillment center operations. She could not estimate how many new jobs would be created.
“It certainly is an exciting project for us to be able to work with the state of Maine to promote tourism with L.L. Bean,” McCann said.