The Northern Forest Center is working closely the Office of Tourism and partners in the Maine Woods Consortium to build local capacity to improve the destination appeal in high-potential Rural Destination Areas across the Maine Woods. The concept of “destination development” is to strengthen the amenities, quality services and attractions that make places attractive to live in or visit.
The Community Destination Academy (CDA) combines professional training with financial and technical assistance to support implementation of local destination development projects.
Modeled on Oregon’s successful Rural Tourism Studio, the Destination Academy is built around three goals:
- Build the capacity of local Destination Development Teams to advance a shared vision for their area;
- Deliver skills training on topics including visitor experience development, marketing, fundraising, and more;
- Support team-based project implementation to demonstrate tangible progress and to strengthen working relationships among destination area stakeholders.
The Center launched the first Destination Academy in the Moosehead Lake region in 2018 in partnership with the Maine Office of Tourism, Piscataquis County Economic Development Council (PCEDC), and Destination Moosehead. Participants included local business, non-profit, and municipal leaders—representing all the critical elements of a successful destination development effort. In spring 2019 the Academy moved to Rangeley, Maine, and in fall 2019 a new session will begin in Bethel, Maine.
The multi-part workshops cover topics including:
- Creating Memorable Visitor Experiences
- Finding the Money: Destination Financing for NGOs, Towns and Businesses
- Selling Your Story: Destination Marketing
- How Teams Get Things Done: Turning Plans into Action
Following each Academy, participants work together on priority projects that will improve their location as a destination for visitors. The Center and its partners re-convene participants follow-up workshops to reflect on their work and to address additional topics of interest to the group.
The Community Destination Academy is a core element of the Center’s work with the Maine Woods Consortium to advance Rural Destination Development as a priority economic strategy for the Maine Woods region. The new program builds on the Maine Woods Tourism Training Initiative which has delivered business training workshops serving hundreds of businesses and their employees across all seven Maine Woods counties since 2010.