The Northern Forest Center is working closely with 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 new Community Destination Academy (CDA) combines a 6-part, professionally led workshop series with direct 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 this spring in partnership with the Maine Office of Tourism, Piscataquis County Economic Development Council (PCEDC), and Destination Moosehead. The 20 attendees included a mix of local business, non-profit, and municipal leaders—representing all the critical elements of a successful destination development effort.
The four-part workshop series offered in the Moosehead region included:
- Creating Memorable Visitor Experiences – with Joe Veneto, Opportunities Unlimited;
- Finding the Money: Destination Financing for NGOs, Towns and Businesses – with the Maine Community Foundation, Coastal Enterprises, Maine SBDC, and PCED;
- Selling Your Story: Destination Marketing – with Nancy Marshall Communications;
- How Teams Get Things Done: Turning Plans into Action – with the Ward Green Group.
Building on this opening workshop series, Academy participants are working together on a coordinated effort to improve the quality of 10 local events and their ability to draw increasing numbers of visitors to the Moosehead region. The Center and its partners will re-convene participants for two final workshops in the fall to reflect on their work together throughout the summer, 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.