September 23, 2019
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New venture hopes to boost tourism Down East

Johanna S. Billings | BDN
Johanna S. Billings | BDN
Colleen S. Morton (left) and Meg Keay relax on Adirondack chairs behind Helen's Restaurant in Machias following a business meeting Friday. The two co-founded Fundy-Acadia Regional Adventures in order to promote tourism in the area.

EASTPORT, Maine — Two Eastport women are leading a new business venture designed to promote restaurants, gift shops and other attractions for tourists visiting places from Stonington to St. John, New Brunswick.

In mid-May, Meg Keay and Colleen S. Morton teamed up to create Fundy-Acadia Regional Adventures to help the region build its own identity as a tourist destination, they said.

“It’s all about economic development,” said Morton. “That’s why I got into this with [Keay] in the first place.”

Keay, former executive director for the Eastport Area Chamber of Commerce, was instrumental in launching the chamber’s regional visitor information center, which opened last summer. Two flat-screen TVs — one in Eastport and one in the Roosevelt-Campobello Information Center in Whiting — ran 10-second advertisements for area attractions. The ads scrolled through about four times an hour.

The chamber considered expanding the network of TVs throughout the area but decided against it because of the high costs of equipment, Keay said.

So Morton and Keay decided to take on the project themselves and buy some more TVs to sell and display more ads. The duo has contracted with DBB Advertising of Machias to provide equipment and technical services for the advertising campaign. Morton also is working on a website she hopes to launch in July.

Already the pair has five TVs running ads in New Brunswick and seven running ads in the United States in locations such as Eastport, Whiting and Machias. They are working on getting TVs installed in additional towns such as Ellsworth, Bar Harbor and Calais. They’re also working to expand as far south as Belfast and Bucksport, with a goal of having 20 TVs running ads by mid summer, they said. The advertisers pay them to run the ads.

“Tourism today is a very competitive market. In order to attract, you have to have a great variety of attractions to offer,” said Keay.

This area does have plenty of attractions, but these are run by small businesses that don’t get exposure on the larger tourism websites, which tend to feature large hotels and big tourism companies, they said.

“There are so many things that just sort of slip through the cracks on the bigger websites,” Keay said. “I’ve uncovered all these gems that I wasn’t aware of.”

The attractions that get overlooked — such as artists and artist studios, art classes, performances and smaller tour outfits — are the kinds of things Keay and Morton highlight in order to attract tourists.

The pair also is working with the Charlotte Coastal Region Tourism Association to promote attractions across the border in Canada as well as in Maine.

“I see it as one region, not two countries,” Keay said.

Keay and Morton said they will be using their website to make potential tourists aware of the need for passports to get into Canada. However, the women hope that those who don’t bring passports initially will decide to return to the region with them another time.

“People don’t see this region as having the depth of activities that other regions have,” Morton said. “But that’s not true. Our region does have something for everybody.”

 



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