Amid Cold and Snow, Maine Officials Look Ahead to Tourism Season

Mar 13, 2017

PORTLAND, Maine - The annual Governor's Conference on Tourism opens Tuesday in Augusta. Steve Lyons, the state's acting director of tourism and film, says tourism is a part of the Maine economy that continues to grow, and change.

Lyons talks with Maine Public's Morning  Edition host Irwin Gratz.

STEVE LYONS: Well, what the state's really planning is moving down the road to what we call a "lifestyle brand" of tourism.  And, what we kind of mean by a lifestyle brand of tourism is the sense among visitors that Mainers have figured it all out:  that we're living a dream and kind of living in this beautiful place, with a good work-life balance and are enjoying life.  So that's something we're trying to project in our campaign.  That you can come to Maine, enjoy everything we have to offer, and be yourself;  be original.  And that's kind of what the Maine thing campaign is all about.

IRWIN GRATZ:  I'm wondering - is this a response to some things that, perhaps, we're seeing elsewhere in the wider tourism world?

STEVE LYONS:  Tourism is kind of leaning towards a values-based approach, where you actually go and you're promoting your state, based upon a person's inner personal values.  It's less about the demographics of how old you are, what generation you are, whether you're a millennial or a baby boomer, and more about what inner personal value inside that's inherent in every person makes them decide to take a vacation;  that's what we're seeing more as a trend in the wider tourism industry.

IRWIN GRATZ:  In other words, trying to give people an opportunity to take a vacation that, kind of, matches their identity as they perceive it.

STEVE LYONS:  Exactly, I mean what we're seeing - people are looking for experiences, rather than just coming and doing the hike, or paddling in the bay. They're looking for something that's more formal experience.  Like, how can I meet the locals? How can I act as if I am a local while I'm here, and experience those things the locals would experience?  So that's another trend that we've seen.

IRWIN GRATZ:  Tell me a little bit about the conference coming up this week.  Are some of the topics and the speakers going to reflect some of this?

STEVE LYONS:   Yeah, it will.  The Governor's Conference on Tourism is our opportunity to update the Maine tourism industry on the progress that we're having in our campaigns.  It's also an opportunity to deliver the information that can contribute to the individual growth of Maine tourism businesses.  And introduce strategies for increasing revenue.

IRWIN GRATZ:  How big has tourism become as an industry for this state?

STEVE LYONS:  tourism in this state is very important to the state's economy.  Direct tourism expenditures total nearly $6 billion.  It supports about 100,000 jobs each year.  And tourism also generates about $600 million in total state and local taxes.  So, it's obviously a very important part of the Maine economy.

IRWIN GRATZ:  And still growing.

STEVE LYONS:  And still growing.  Yeah.  We continue to see increases year-over-year.  I was just looking back at some figures.  We've seen an average of about 6 or 7 percent increase in visitation each year for the past five or six years. So, visitation to the state is still growing.  And so, as visitation to the state grows, so do expenditures, and that benefits everyone in Maine.

The annual Governor's Conference on Tourism opens Tuesday at the Augusta Civic Center.