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March 9, 2015 On the record

Chris Fogg takes the helm of Maine Tourism Association

Photo / Russ Dillingham Chris Fogg, new president of the Maine Tourism Association, says he's finding new ways to adapt to the way people find and use information.

Chris Fogg, the new president of the Maine Tourism Association, discovered after eight years as executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce that the state's visitors “love Maine and love coming to Maine.” But with the need to find new visitors and direct legacy visitors to new attractions, the Maine Tourism Association, which provides services for the state Office of Tourism and the state Department of Transportation, finds marketing plays a key role.

The Maine Tourism Association's $2.2 million budget is financed by membership dues, advertising sales and contracted services for state agencies. The association, which has 1,600 business members, produces travel planners, the “Maine Invites You” guide, maps, a website and social media. It also operates visitor information centers in Kittery, Yarmouth, Fryeburg, Hampden (two locations), Calais and Houlton.

Maine's 29.8 million visitors spent $7.5 billion in 2013 and supported about 13% of employment in the state.

Mainebiz caught up with Fogg his first day on the job, Feb. 2. Below is an edited transcript.

Mainebiz: How is tourism marketing shaped by today's new media?

Chris Fogg: We're finding ways to adapt to the way people find and use information. They go on the web and look for a hotel or a place to eat, but there's so much information. People rely on us because, as a trusted association, they can use our guidebook, then use the Internet to locate individual businesses.

MB: What's your experience in deploying new media?

CF: In Bar Harbor, we were exploring new technologies all the time. We were using social media such as Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube to find and engage customers. It created two-way conversations. So we didn't only market to people: They'd ask us questions, and we were able to respond. It was a relationship. For example, we did a monthly visitor newsletter, updating people on events. I'd talk about what it's like to live and work in Bar Harbor, and people would say things like, 'You know, I got married there in 1966 and we've visited every year since then. Can you give us a recommendation for a great restaurant?' Creating that two-way conversation has been really important. It shows the relationship people have to the state of Maine.

MB: How will you leverage that experience for the state?

CF: I think it's important to use social media and Internet technology to provide information. But print and digital are both important. What we found in Bar Harbor, among the people who used our website, 89% still wanted a printed piece. While you might see print in other industries going down, for tourism it's still an important component for providing information. I think we need to use both — and I think we build on that, so that we have great publications as well as relationships through social media.

MB: Acadia National Park has a youth technology initiative to try to re-engage youth in the outdoors. Will the association look for similar ideas?

CF: Yes. In the national parks, if you look at the people coming, we tend to skew toward older folks rather than younger folks. We need to get that new set of customers coming in. We need to engage them in a new kind of way.

MB: What's your take on tourism outreach to date?

CF: It's excellent. We have a great product and we have great name recognition. I think people love Maine and love coming to Maine. With my experience in Bar Harbor, we found that people love coming year after year.

MB: What's on the agenda for the association for the future?

CF: We'll continue to improve our relationship with the state Office of Tourism. They're a critical partner in providing information to people. We'll find ways we can fill in some of the gaps of things they can't do. And we'll continue to improve technology-wise and find different ways to reach people — in the welcome centers as well, by using things like touch-screen kiosks.

Read more

Maine tourism plan: attract more newcomers

Bar Harbor Chamber names new leader

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