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Maine Sets Sights on Luring International Visitors, Millenials
03/19/2014   Reported By: Jay Field

With a big assist from Madison Avenue, Maine tourism officials are launching a new five-year effort to further boost the state's brand as a top-flight destination for travelers. The state outlined the new strategy this morning before a ballroom of industry leaders at the Governor's Conference on Tourism in Bangor. Tourism officials want to raise direct industry expenditures from just over $5 billion to $6 billion by 2019. As Jay Field reports, meeting that goal will depend, in part, on attracting two of the fastest-growing groups of travelers.

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Few people know as much about domestic and international travel trends as Mark Orwoll. The longtime journalist, who's currently the international editor at Travel and Leisure Magazine, delivered the keynote address at this year's Maine Tourism Conference. So, about halfway through his talk, Orwoll pressed a button on his PowerPoint clicker.

"This is a chart that I pulled from the International Trade Administration, the Department of Commerce," he said.

It's basically this bar graph with a lot of blue and red lines. It shows how many international travelers are expected to visit the U.S. annually over the next five years. Some 69 million foreigners traveled here in 2013.

"We've been setting records for international visitor growth," Orwoll said, "And that looks like it's going to continue for the near term - 3.4 percent to 4.3 percent annual growth in international visitors through 2018, over the next five years or so."

It's one of two tourist groups Orwoll singled out in his presentation to Maine's tourist industry. The other?

"The millenials - those young adults who were born during the last 20 years of the 20th century - the 18-to-35 age group," he said. "They're in the workforce. They're earning a salary. And they travel."

They also, Orwoll noted, grew up with computers - at school, at home, everywhere. Their lives revolve around connecting to the Internet, wirelessly, on their handheld smartphones and tablets. They expect airlines, hotels, restaurants and tour operators to be online with easy-to-use websites that are optimized for mobile devices.

If you don't have a website like this, Orwoll more or less suggested, you'd better get one. It's a message the Maine Office of Tourism is heeding.

"We have elected to sort of bring to life the brand platform of originality through this idea of storytelling," said Victoria Simmons, who is with BVK, an independent advertising agency working with the Maine Tourism Office. "Real people telling real stories about their experiences in Maine."

Audio from Video: "It's a different kind of noisy. It's not like in a city, where it's the traffic lights and the cars and pedestrians."

That's Monique Coombs. She and her husband Herman, a lobsterman on Orr Island, are part of a group of "insiders" pitching the state's many charms in short videos on the Visit Maine website.

Audio from Video: "It's the lobster boats and the waves and the seagulls. I mean you get the early morning, if you get up early, you get the early morning sunrise."

Last year, the Maine Office of Tourism awarded a one-year, $700,000 marketing contract to the Dilenschneider Group, a New York-based public relations firm. In its proposal, the group promised to use the Internet and social media to feature real people, telling the inside story of Maine.

These efforts, officials made clear in Bangor, are a critical part of attracting more people from outside New England, more millenials, more international visitors and boosting year-round visits to the state - just a few of the tourism industry's goals over the next five years.


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