One of the 20th century’s most exemplary capitalists, Henry Ford, had this to say about spending money to make money: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops the clock to save time.” That advice should be applied to tourism, Maine’s biggest industry.
Information presented at last month’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism made it clear that Maine’s core market for visitors remains much the same as it has been for decades, mostly those within a day’s drive. Of the 9.5 million overnight visitors and 13.7 million day-trippers coming to Maine last year, Massachusetts continued to be the top place of origin. Twenty percent of Maine’s overnight visitors and 37 percent day visitors hailed from the Bay State in 2010. New Yorkers made up 18 percent of overnight visitors, with New Jersey and Ontario at 9 percent, New Brunswick at 7 percent and Quebec and New Hampshire each at 5 percent.
And tourism officials are very aware of the role Mainers, as day-trippers and overnight visitors, play in this segment of the economy. Six percent of the state’s overnight visits were made by Mainers, and 37 percent of day-trippers started their journey from an in-state hometown.
Outdoor recreation was the top reason for making the trip (37 percent) followed by “touring” (27 percent. Carolann Ouellette, the new director of Maine’s Office of Tourism, must be cognizant of the impact potentially record-setting gas prices this summer will have on those who like to drive Maine’s pretty coastal and backcountry roads.
Shopping was the top reason for day trips, so tourism officials wisely have worked to build advertising campaigns aimed at getting those from nearby states and provinces to Maine during nonpeak months. Research shows that women, ages 25-64, are the key planners of such trips, so advertising should be further targeted to reach them.
Ms. Ouellette most recently was deputy director of the tourism office, where she specialized in international marketing and arts and heritage tourism. But perhaps the most relevant part of her resume is that she had owned the Moose Point Tavern in Jackman and managed the New England Outdoor Center in Millinocket and the Sugarloaf Inn. If Maine can grow its tourism numbers, it should direct those visitors and their dollars away from the coast and inland. She understands what it takes to get those visitors there.
And speaking of dollars — the most important fact freshmen legislators and the new administration must remember in their zeal to restrain state spending is that for every $1 spent on tourism advertising, a return of $7 in taxes and spending is realized.
Developing, polishing and marketing Maine’s tourism must be a priority for state government. Though paper mills, call centers and software companies often get the big headlines when they expand or move here, it is the steady flow of tourism spending that sustains much of Maine’s economy.