Effective rural destination development could double the economic impact of tourism in the Maine Woods region to $5.6 billion by 2030, according to reports released by the Maine Woods Consortium.
The reports analyze key travel and tourism trends that will influence future visitation to the region and evaluate the potential economic and social impacts of alternative Rural Destination Development strategies. The reports recommend a strategy built on “high touch – high service” experiences and high potential emerging markets as the best approach to achieve this goal.
The Maine Woods Consortium is an initiative coordinated by the Northern Forest Center that includes non-profits, businesses, and state agencies working together to advance rural economic development in the Maine Woods. It promotes Rural Destination Areas where recreational and cultural amenities, hospitality services, dynamic events, and vibrant downtowns attract new visitors, businesses and residents. The Consortium contracted with the international consulting firm Future iQiQ to analyze market trends and produce the reports and recommendations.
“Rural Destination Development should be a priority economic strategy for the Maine Woods region,” said Mike Wilson, senior program director for the Northern Forest Center, and coordinator for the Consortium.
Wilson notes that while tourism has always been a part of the Maine Woods economy, the tourism product or experience needs to change to keep up with demographic and travel trends, and the region needs to be proactive to compete with markets across New England and globally.
“The kinds of visitor experiences that make someone return for another visit, recommend it to others or even move to an area, are built on a combination of amenities including quality lodging, dining, and recreation, vibrant downtowns, cultural events, and excellent customer service,” says Donna Moreland, destination development specialist for the Maine Office of Tourism, a member of the Consortium.
Building upon the opportunities and strategies outlined in the Future iQ reports, the Consortium and Maine Office of Tourism are collaborating on a new Community Destination Academy program designed to build capacity and provide project support in high-potential Rural Destination Areas across the Maine Woods later this spring.