When it comes to tourism, Maine can’t be complacent and count on license plates that proclaim itself Vacationland. It’s a crowded and expensive marketplace, and one in which potential visitors weigh competing lodging choices and even competing weather forecasts.
Under the leadership of director Carolann Ouellette, the Maine Office of Tourism has crafted a strategy that targets three groups (see our story in this issue). One past strategy used generation as a defining quality; baby boomers were valued for their free time and accumulated wealth. Another sifted for outdoorsy types, with the argument that they are Maine’s best shot, even if they spend less than others.
This time, extensive surveys drove the strategy that was unveiled at the annual tourism conference. And that strategy targets groups by identifying them through shared values. The groups are described as “balanced achievers,” “genuine originals” and “social sophisticates.” The tourism office freely admits that other groups were jettisoned from the plan because they don’t spend much money, and that’s sensible enough.
Once their values are understood, it is easier to appeal to each group, or even to match them to regions of the state (maybe Downeast for the genuine originals, Portland for the social sophisticates).
As unattractive as some of their values sound—the social sophisticates are interested in “luxury, flawless service and keeping up appearances,” we’re told—it’s a step in the right direction. Rather than latch onto the latest hotshot consultant’s vision, data informs this plan.
What’s needed next is just as much data on how well the strategy is working. And if it’s working—if the targeted groups are indeed coming to Maine for the first time—the battle is more than half won, because history shows that once they visit, people tend to return to Maine.
And if it’s working, the office ought to stick to a plan for the long term.