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The Maine Office of Tourism revealed details Wednesday of a $2 million advertising campaign aimed at attracting tourists by highlighting the state’s low coronavirus case count to help offset heavy losses incurred by hospitality businesses amid pandemic restrictions.
The campaign includes television, radio and social media ads that cast Maine as a place where visitors can social distance in scenic locations that are safe. It currently focuses on Mainers traveling within the state and tourists from the five states that are exempt from testing and 14-day quarantines: Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
So far, the visitmaine.com website, ads on YouTube and other postings are getting more views than expected, Steve Lyons, director of the tourism office, said during a virtual meeting Wednesday. He added that his office is watching virus counts in other states, including Massachusetts, so it can market to them as well.
“Our job is to market the state of Maine regardless of the situation we’re in. People want it to be the way it always has been and it just isn’t,” he said.
Lyons said a consumer sentiment study showed that 42 percent of American travelers don’t have out-of-state trips planned for the rest of 2020, which means 58 percent do have plans or were undecided. Some 35 percent said they could be convinced to take a trip they hadn’t previously considered. Lyons took a glass-half-full strategy to come up with ads for various stages of reopening.
The first ads that started on June 8 targeted Mainers coming out of lockdown and traveling in-state to “rediscover Maine.” Lyons said an online tourism video got almost 12 million impressions and a YouTube video got 1.7 million between June 8 and July 10. In-state searches using the Google ads platform got more than 138,000 impressions with a 38 percent conversion rate of people interacting with the tourism office’s website, a percentage he said is high.
The next group of ads from July 5 to Aug. 2 branched out to other states after Gov. Janet Mills allowed testing as an alternative to quarantine and said New Hampshire and Vermont residents need not quarantine or get tested. In early July she expanded that to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Those ads focused on discovering or rediscovering Maine’s 3,500 coastline, 6,000 lakes and Acadia National Park. The ads also ran on NPR and Pandora radio.
The tourism office spent $508,210 on the ad campaigns targeting the five states with unrestricted access to Maine. In August, the office will start a $1.5 million campaign aimed at promoting Maine as a safe destination. It is one of three states where daily case counts are declining, according to The New York Times.
It will run until the end of September. Advertising will include social media, print media and billboards showing the wide open spaces of Maine and only a few people in the images. One billboard will read, “Trade city lights for starry skies.”
“Some of that assumes that we will be able to go into some other states,” said Lyons.