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April 5, 2018

Tourist visitations hit five-year high in 2017, but spending stayed level

Courtesy / Maine Office of Tourism
Courtesy / Maine Office of Tourism
In looking forward to this year's tourism season, the Maine Office of Tourism reports that its creative materials for print, digital and television advertising will continue the values-based and “lifestyle” tourism marketing direction as expressed by its award-winning “This is Me” marketing campaign.

Governor's Conference on Tourism Awards

Also featured at this week's conference was presentations of the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses and organizations that have distinguished themselves through their work and contributions to the growth of tourism in Maine.

"This is an opportunity for Maine's tourism industry to honor those who are providing visitors with interesting new experiences," said Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism. "It is gratifying to see the exciting work that is being done in our state, and to have this opportunity to recognize some of the outstanding representatives of Maine's tourism industry."

The 2018 award recipients are:


  • Leadership and Growth Award: Maine Grains Inc.

  • Innovation and Creativity Award: Pamela J. Laskey, Maine Foodie Tours

  • Marketing and Promotion Award: Sandy Pines Campground

  • Originality Award: BikeMaine

  • Governor's Award for Tourism Excellence: Center for Maine Contemporary Art.

The Maine Office of Tourism's annual report on the economic impact of Maine's tourism industry shows a 2.5% increase in visitations in 2017 over the previous year, with an estimated 36.7 million visitors.

But direct tourism spending, which includes retail sales, restaurant and food, lodging, recreation, transportation and gasoline, stayed flat — with the $6 billion in direct tourism expenditures reported for 2017 being only 0.4% higher than that $5.99 billion reported in 2016.

It was the fifth-consecutive year of visitation increases, which have shown an average annual increase of 5.7% since 2012.

In 2017, 5.3 million were first-time visitors.

Direct tourism expenditures in 2017 totaled over $6 billion, according to the 2017 annual report, with an overall economic impact of almost $9 billion. An estimated 106,806 jobs were supported by tourism in 2017.

Other highlights of the report, which was presented at the two-day annual Governor's Conference on Tourism in Portland this week, include:

  • Overnight visitation increased by approximately 7 percent in 2017 over 2016.
  • Canadian day and overnight visitation accounted for 4.1 million visitors.
  • Spending on tourism-related recreation increased by 8.5 percent in 2017.
  • Tourism spending generated almost $600 million in tax revenue for the state.
  • Travel contributed $2.5 billion to Maine households.

Gearing up for 2018

The conference, which was held at the Holiday Inn By the Bay, featured workshops and breakout sessions designed to help attendees develop creative marketing plans for this year's tourism season.

Among the presentations:

  • Video storytelling and livestreaming, presented by Rory Strunk, president of O'Maine Studios, and Yury Nabokov, manager of innovation and digital strategy at Machias Savings Bank.
  • Tips on adding interactive experiences to provide deeper and more meaningful engagement with visitors while also adding to the bottom line, presented by Abbe Levin and Donna Moreland of Maine Office of Tourism.
  • Tapping into the wellness travel market, one of the fastest-growing segments of the national tourism industry, a presentation moderated by Heather Chandler, publisher of Green & Healthy Maine.
  • Update on 2018 Cruise Maine operations and marketing, presented by Patrick Arnold, owner of Soli DG, the company that manages the International Marine Terminal in Portland and was awarded the contract to manage cruise marketing, coordination and outreach for Maine.

In looking forward to this year's tourism season, the Maine Office of Tourism reported in a news release that its creative materials for print, digital and television advertising will continue the values-based and "lifestyle" tourism marketing direction as expressed by its award-winning "This is Me" marketing campaign.

Positive results of its 2017 tourism marketing program include:

  • 3 million VisitMaine.com website sessions in 2017, an increase of 21.6% over 2016
  • 72,000 "Maine Invites you" travel guidebook orders from VisitMaine.com, up 9.7%
  • 9.300 e-newsletter sign-ups, up 202.4% over 2016
  • 5.4 billion editorial impressions
  • 53 million Facebook impressions
  • 896,500 Twitter impressions
  • 18,000 new Instagram followers.

'Crafting the customer experience for people not like you'

Kelly McDonald, a marketing and advertising guru who specializes in multicultural marketing and consumer trends, gave the conference's keynote address on "Crafting the Customer Experience for People Not Like You."

In a Q&A with Irwin Gratz, host of Maine Public Radio's Morning Edition show, McDonald shared these tips:

  • "The best businesses garner customer sales and loyalty by tapping into what different people value."
  • "People will gravitate to the companies and businesses that help them solve their problems."
  • "Doing good is the new cool … And while all companies do good things, it's really important for brands and companies to merchandise what it is that they do."

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By the numbers: Highlights of 2017 tourism season

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