Image and perception are among the top attributes for any destination. Maine has a wonderful image and fulfills the perception of a picturesque state. During my career in business I had the opportunity to visit every state, and Maine is second to none when it comes to image, perception and beauty.
Now, where Maine does not win, place or even show is in marketing, or if you prefer, in telling the world about itself. Image and perception are wonderful assets, but without a strong marketing effort, they remain frozen or at best underutilized.
In the study of tourism we learn that historically, business travel resulted in building transportation services. These new routes led to leisure travel and visitations. The “hospitality” infrastructure consisting of lodging, food and beverage facilities, shopping, arts and crafts, recreation, entertainment, attractions, etc. all propelled economic growth and sustainability. This infrastructure attracted new investment, provided increased revenues, and of course many jobs. In many instances this aspect of the service sector replaced manufacturing as the top driver of the economy.
So where is Maine falling short, and more importantly what can be done to convey that wonderful image and perception to the world of business and travel? How can Maine attract new revenue without burdening its own residents with new taxes? Why should this occur? And when can this be done?
Now is time to take a disciplined strategic marketing approach. This begins with ascertaining what is the “mission.” I would propose Maine’s mission might be to “provide an attractive place to invest for business and leisure while providing an outstanding living environment and services to its residents.” The overall goal and objectives would be to:
- Increase business investment.
- Increase revenues through increased travel to Maine.
- Provide appropriate infrastructure improvements and efficiencies.
- Run a strategic marketing plan to convey the image, perception and these objectives to the market.
Each of these should be quantified and time lines should be established.
Given the new mission and the above objectives, specific supporting strategies and tactics would need to be put in place. These could include new incentives for business investment, reallocation of funds for a major tourism marketing campaign, and visual and perpetual improvements to entry points and gateways to Maine.
The marketing of Maine should be bold, including a new theme, slogan, media and cooperative partnerships. It should saturate the major feeder markets conveying the new image and perception. It should be supported with substantially more public relations and promotional activity of all those with a vested interest. An ongoing research endeavor should be supported that provides information to support the marketing of the state. The state needs to implement an internal education program to help destinations, cities, towns and the tourism-related entities such as the arts, crafts, attractions, entertainment venues.
Externally, Maine should undertake new endeavors and incentives to attract more flights, cruises, tours, festivals and other events to Maine. Special incentives should be developed and marketed to franchisers to enter or expand the Maine market. And entrepreneurship support should be provided those who wish to start new service related businesses.
All of the above requires a change in the mindset and business-as-usual ways. It requires energy, enthusiasm, financial refocusing and new prioritizations. It requires relooking and rethinking old ways and introducing new ways of going about marketing Maine. It requires recognition that new revenue from external sources reduces the tax burden on residents and businesses. It requires a philosophic change from “we need to cut it” to we need to cover it and “we need to do it better.”
We need it for our future if we are to change the status quo.
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.