Skip to comments.Maine: Tourist dollars up as visits drop off
Posted on 04/30/2005 9:26:46 AM PDT by SheLion
PORTLAND - Overnight visits by tourists to and within Maine were down last year, but revenues were up - and that spells trouble, Maine's top tourism official told a statewide meeting Friday. Dann Lewis, director of the state tourism office, warned the Governor's Conference on Tourism that the broad perception of Maine as a good buy for the travel dollar has collapsed. "The perception that Maine is a travel bargain has disappeared over the last five years," he said.
What the tourism industry calls the price-value ratio has been "out of balance" in recent years as innkeepers have raised rates, Lewis said. Spending on overnight accommodations was up 13 percent last year, compared with the previous year - even with a declining number of visits.
And beyond rates, owners of some hotels, motels, inns and campgrounds are failing to deliver a quality stay, Lewis said.
All that is occurring as consumers are becoming more travel savvy because of the ease with which they can do comparison shopping and research on the Web. So customers are better educated, more discerning and more demanding, he told the conference.
Lewis was blunt, but not everyone agreed completely with his analysis.
Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association, said the visitation picture is more complicated than Lewis suggested. The area south of Portland has seen "decent increases," he said, while Portland has seen flat visitation numbers
The farther east a tourist travels, the worse the occupancy rates have been, he said.
The midcoast, Hancock County and Down East have seen drops of 8 percent and more, Dugal said.
Coastal properties' prices, which have escalated dramatically in recent years, help explain the "out of balance" price-value ratio, he said.
"Real estate is really driving room rates," Dugal said. Coastal inns are selling for prices double what they sold for five or 10 years ago. With that kind of an investment, innkeepers must raise their room rates, he said.
Dugal agreed with Lewis that the Web has made it more challenging to land out-of-state visitors. Would-be tourists in the Boston area know they can make last-minute reservations online. So they may check weather forecasts late in the week before committing to a trip north.
Or they compute the cost of their trip to Maine - including the gas - and compare it with trips elsewhere.
Delivering a quality visit to Maine was the theme of Friday's conference at Holiday Inn By-The-Bay.
Those in tourism businesses and those who work to promote the state as a destination stressed the importance of being polite to visitors, providing them with the information they need to have an enjoyable stay - even when that means cooperating with businesses that may be seen as competitors - and working to create festivals and events in host communities.
Providing that quality is not necessarily easy but is one step the industry can take to counteract the declining numbers, Lewis argued.
Another step is to have the resources available to effectively market Maine.
The current "woefully inadequate" level of resources, Lewis said, "restrict us to being a minor player in the Northeast region."
In past years, tourism industry advocates have argued for increasing lodging and meal taxes to create more state revenue for advertising Maine in Northeast media markets.
On Friday, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Jack Cashman boasted to the conference that there were no such tax increases this year. He was applauded - but only when he prompted the audience to clap.
Still, the innkeepers who know how to effectively market their region and their accommodations are doing OK, Dugal said, even in a poor season.
Innkeepers need to focus on the basics, he said, citing statistics from the state's tourism site that show 38 percent of visitors are interested in sightseeing activities, contrary to the adventure-based tourism that some speakers at the conference touted.
Lewis and Jeff Sosnaud, deputy director of the tourism office, have high hopes for creating the Center for Tourism Research and Outreach as a tool to gather data about the industry and its role in Maine and to prepare would-be tourism entrepreneurs and employees.
The initiative, to be launched in conjunction with the University of Maine System, is one of just a few spending initiatives in Gov. John Baldacci's budget, Sosnaud said. He urged those in the industry to attend upcoming legislative hearings to support the proposal.
Lewis also unveiled this year's TV and print advertisements for Maine, which will be shown nationally.
The 30-second TV spot, continuing the "It must be Maine" theme used in recent years, shows a lighthouse, kayaking, an art museum, a lobster bake on a beach, a man lying in a hammock lakeside, and a moose.
Tourism by the numbers:
In 2004, Maine tourism generated:
$9.4 billion in goods and services
$2.6 billion in total payroll
$384 million in state and local taxes
In 2004, there were 43.8 million overnight and day trips in and to Maine.
Those coming to Maine from other states come from:
Massachusetts (38 percent)
New Hampshire (8 percent)
New York (7 percent)
Connecticut (6 percent)
Pennsylvania (5 percent)
California (5 percent)
Rhode Island (4 percent)
New Jersey (4 percent)
The Web effect:
40 percent of advance bookings were made via the Internet (46 percent is national norm)
In 1997, just 7 percent of travelers used the Web to plan their vacation trips; in 2004, that grew to 37 percent
I don't care how they spin it! When 25-30% of the tourist smoke, and word got out that Maine was forced to go smoke-free, tourists will take their money to another smoker friendly state!
A tourist can no longer have a cigarette in a restaurant, bar, nightclub, sports inn, tavern, bowling alley in the state of Maine.
The economist are nuts if they think this has nothing to do with the revenue.
Partnership For A Tobacco Free Maine is choking the economy! Like it or not!
Been to Maine and will never be going back. I don't have anything in common with any NE states.
Start designing the house this AM
I have been to Maine a couple of times and it is a nice state...but it stinks...smells like a rotten egg fart in a lot of the rural areas due to nasty factories...and the root beer looking water in Augusta is the grossest thing I have ever seen..Granted there are some really nice places. But I'll take the smell of good old cow manure over the stench I smelled there...They have taken care of inside air pollution...maybe they should consider cleaning up outside air as well.
It's your time and your dime. You have to go to a place where you are comfortable. Why spend your money on a vacation that you hate? I don't blame you.
You must have stayed near a paper mill.
If the Rats in Maine take care of anything else, they may as well give us back to Canada.
An old man had lived his whole life in a small cabin on the Maine and New Hampshire border. A survey had just been completed and he was informed that he actually did not live in Maine, but rather in New Hampshire. His response was, "Thank goodness! I dont think I could endure another Maine winter."
May through October is STICK IT TO THE TOURIST AGAIN season!
Thank you Rep. Sean Faircloth, D-Bangor! You are such a RAT!
Rep. Sean Faircloth, D-Bangor, suggests hiking taxes on beer, wine, bar drinks and cigarettes, boosting the meals and lodging tax during the months of May through October, establishing a soft drinks tax and raising the income level at which the highest marginal rate would apply.
Rep. John Eder, a Green party lawmaker from Portland, would apply the sales tax to tourism-related categories and direct new revenue toward targeted property tax relief.
Nice blog! :)
Well, so far they are safe. They can still smoke outside. Maine sure is state run! :(
Yep, or a tanning mill like I was near when I attended St. Francis College in Biddeford. Wonder if it's still there.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.