May 30, 2020

To know Maine is to love it, according to state tourism officials, who point out that vacation spots here rely heavily on repeat business. The challenge for the state’s Office of Tourism is to persuade more people to get to know Maine.

At a two-day conference in Bangor last week, tourism officials outlined the state’s latest attempt to draw more visitors to Maine’s lakes and camping areas, its historic sites and small towns, its coast and cities. There is good reason to believe that even a relatively small investment in advertising to attract these people will get them to pack their bags and head this way. A $600,000 media campaign last summer resulted in approximately $78 million in additional spending by tourists, adding nearly $7 million to the state treasury — an impressive 11-to-1 return.

The campaign came from a boost in the budget of the Tourism Office, which is planning a similar campaign this year. The Maine Legislature should investigate giving the office even more to advertise. There no doubt is a ceiling at which the payback is no longer worth the investment, but just as certainly, Maine has not approached that level yet.

Two types of visitors make up the greatest share of Maine’s tourism economy: touring and outdoor recreation, also known as adventure travel. The touring sort spend more money, especially on such things as accommodations, meals, museums. The adventure market is smaller but faster growing, with a demand for sea kyacks and mountain-bike trails. Maine has plenty of room for growth in both areas, and it is encouraging to see the Tourism Office aggressively pursue these opportunities.

Virtually every state sells itself as a tourist destination; Maine has a huge advantage over most in its natural beauty and open spaces. The King administration should take the evidence of its success last year and urge lawmakers to continue to expand the tourism budget, reaping a profit for the industry and taxpayers statewide.

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