On Father’s Day my wife treated me to lunch in Bar Harbor. I had been coming to Maine for more than 30 years as a tourist and then just could not stand it any longer and permanently moved to the beautiful Pine Tree State.
As we were enjoying lunch while looking out at the harbor it struck me how different it was in the earlier years of our visits. Three magnificent cruise ships graced the harbor. As we walked through town the sidewalks were packed, the stores were full and the thousands of cruise ship passengers were doing what tourists do the most — spending money in the shops, eating, and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
What was different from years years past was what we heard on the street and what we saw in some of the store windows. These were not just in-state tourists, or tourists from the Northeast or other states for that matter. These were tourists from many different parts of the world. We heard many different languages being spoken. We saw signs in store windows indicating what other language than English was spoken in the establishment. We smelled the aroma of the foods of the world from the restaurants. We were reminded that the world has in a sense become a smaller place and so much more diverse because of travel and tourism. We also recognized that not only is tourism the motor of diversity, it is also the propeller of prosperity for Maine.
Our customers are now as varied as the flows of global traffic. Their needs, wants and the languages they speak are also diverse. We must understand our customers if we are to provide them with a quality service experience. Enhancing the quality of our product and service offerings begins with links to diversity. These links include an employee mix as diverse as our customers, an appreciation of different cultural perspectives and beliefs, an ability to accommodate the varying needs and tastes of people from different origins and the need to train management and staff to understand and relate to a broad customer base.
All this simply means is embracing diversity.
Diversity is now ingrained in both the leisure and business sectors of our economy. Understanding the economic impact of tourism is very important for Maine. Its relevance and broad impact should be a wake-up call to refocus the state’s priorities to include increasing budget allocations to promote tourism at every level. To explain, tourism revenue comes primarily from out-of-state sources and is renewable every season of the year. Visualize a tollbooth, slot machine or cash register constantly being fed dollars, emptied at the end of the day and replenished every day of the year. All that cash revenue comes from tourism.
Let’s go back to Bar Harbor to understand the “multipliers effect” related to tourism. Every tourist purchase creates a more than sevenfold multiplier effect benefiting the state’s economy. The tourist purchases a meal, a wood product, an artisan’s creation and then the multiplication begins — the agriculture sector realizes revenue from food purchases, the timber and pulp industries get revenue for goods and paper, the transportation industry is paid to supply and resupply the merchants, etc. So in essence, tourism creates demand across a broad spectrum of the economy and creates jobs and prosperity.
This brings one to ask what can be done to nourish this motor of diversity and prosperity called tourism. It is encouraging to see so many municipalities, towns and cities throughout Maine rejuvenate their main streets and successfully invest in the promotion and marketing of tourism. This is taking place across the state at the local level driven by businesses, chambers of commerce and civic pride. At the state level we have an opportunity to focus and invest more, not less, in nourishing the motor called tourism. It is the motor that helps most all sectors of our economy and brings in “external revenue.” Our priorities need to now focus on a new Maine and a new strategy of resource deployment.
Our economy and infrastructure are now heavily influenced by the motor of tourism and so should our perspective and investment in the state. At Husson University, we are in the process of implementing a strategic refocus that directly supports the changing economy and diversity in Maine and in the world. We are developing a Tourism Management Program, forming a Tourism Research Institute, have integrated a global perspective throughout the business curriculum and have introduced courses related to foreign business protocol, cultural appreciation and basic communication in the five most widely spoken languages in the world.
We are introducing and developing new programs in communications, entrepreneurship, family business, franchising, information technology and real estate. We are dedicated to preparing a work force for Maine’s future, a work force with a global perspective, prepared for a diverse work environment and with knowledge of how the economy has and will continue to change.
In summary, tourism brings us diversity and prosperity; it increases revenues and creates jobs in many sectors or our economy. Tourism deserves more investment and the highest economic priority in Maine.
Ronald A. Nykiel, dean of the College of Business at Husson University, has a number of books on travel and tourism marketing and served on a presidential commission on travel and tourism, the Board of the United States Travel Association, and on a governor’s revenues forecasting commission.