The tourists who wander into your small Maine town.
Looking to see a Maine moose, dine on lobster or a bucket of steamed clams. To get a t-shirt or nick nack labeled Maine. There is more that your Maine tourist is after after they cross the big green bridge on the south end of the Pine Tree State. The shift from cookie cutter tourist traps with all the franchises, a sea of sameness is not what your traveler is after these days. Too many other places peddling that out there in the wild blue yonder. Slinging the hash with the same tired buzz lines on pick me, pick me to vacation.
Unique, fresh, real is sought after in every experience all of us seek out today right? Like watching re-runs, something new and different always trumps same old same old. Give me something new and different please.
Maine is all over “it is not like this anywhere else.” You’ve heard the slogan “Maine, the way life should be.” So preserving, capitalizing on the small Maine town rural lifestyle. What makes the small community special and stand out. It starts with the locals realizing how lucky they are to just live full time in a low crime, little traffic setting. With all this natural unspoiled beauty and friendly helpful people. There is an intimate connection in a small Maine town where folks work together to create the sense of community. People wave, smile, help out and know “if it is to be, it is up to me.”.
It is not like that in a city back drop where eye contact and personal interaction is avoided at all costs. Where underlying fear is just part of the stress of living with all these people in your face. Trying to negotiate a crowded sidewalk face with a sea of faces coming at you in all directions like asteroids. And road rage. Those hand gestures are not waves.
What’s the best way to create the local home town pride re-energized?
Two weeks of therapeutic living in a blighted urban population center. Get on the bus, round up the locals of Maine, make the wheels go round and round. Jam lots of people way way too close together in a smelly, noisy, too many shadows of a cold, not so friendly concrete jungle and watch out. Stand back. See what happens as tempers flare, respect is lost and personal living space is invaded. Then bring back those transplanted rural locals from the shell shocking of the city living. They won’t forget the contrast and count their blessings on what we do have, what we don’t that makes Maine a jewel. And the locals will be grounded. To begin again to count the reasons why they are country mice in rural Maine small towns. And making it fun, affordable, casual for those visiting it. Maine fun is outdoors. Low or no cost once you get here. That is what the high cost of living vacationers with strapped out of town finances want. What overbooked, worrisome travelers seek to unplug and recharge when they dial in the relaxation mode considering Maine.
Like anywhere, there are Mainers who will bitch and complain about everything from the weather to the cost of tea in China. Not the buzz to relay, not the signal to send to attract a tourist best. To convey the notion that this place is worth spending some time and money. Deep down in the gray matter they call themselves died in the wool Mainers with a strong constitution. To tackle anything coming down the pike. But they forget why they live here due to discouragement that dims the resiliency. Some natives just resist change as they cling to the past as they growing older.
When you grew up and enjoyed prosperity in a small Maine town. Then erosion happen to the simple way of life. And you witness the hustling, bustling, thriving small Maine town rural economies drying up. Combined with the cost of living escalating. It is easy to lament and have a pity party. To wonder what happened.
Some habitually start to whine without knowing it. And without adapting, re-tooling mentally to approach the local economy differently. It is easy to forget what you liked than made you stay in the small Maine community. And when some of those elements are missing you can start humming the should I stay or should I go Clash song.
Where to put the energies collectively as a small rural Maine town, to be a good ambassador to the area.
Beat the drum loudly. What you want, what your tourist is after. It’s not always a topic where agreement on testy topics scores very high. What you want to see take place in a small Maine town may not be realistic. Due to small numbers in the population to underwrite expenses. And the need to have volume to monetize the endeavor. Everything runs on a business chassis and the small Maine town economy is no different. Otherwise, last guy or gal out shut off the lights on Main Street in small downtown communities.
Remember the joy of life as a kid on a school recess yard playing? Getting along and having fun should not be lost on youth. Our adult attitude, thinking about putting your best foot forward and preserving what we do have to brag up. Making a list. Preaching and seeing to it that everyone is promoting the same local attractions. Getting excited first yourself so it oozes out in all you say, do, fell. Adding to the list with anything missing that your tourist is after. Not just what you want but what they seek that other areas offer. Capitalize on that. What f you were in the moccasins of a new to the area, passing through your burg tourist. Become that character in the local audience.
Nothing like a steady flow of tourist dollars into the local coffers to improve a small Maine town community. As long as the down home simple nature of the small Maine town is not totally revamped. And the live and local is lost in the process.
The winds of change, what is today’s traveler to Maine now after?
What they have lost in their area and is no longer seen. An experience with agri-tourism is part of the splash. Heritage tourism. Re-living the past in farmers museums part of the show and tell to someone brand new to the area of Maine where you hail. The rich folklore of lumber camps, timbering vast forests when timber was king. The fishing and hunting haunts. The recreational trails of Maine that dot the map need to be easily found, heavily promoted. Interstate connections have to be as strong as possible for the tourist to stay in touch online.
Attracting Maine tourists. The natural lure to tangle and tease is the eye candy imagery. Promoting outdoor natural activities like a river canoe or kayak race that just don’t happen in pollution centers. Where the crowd of people have to spend their time staying safe, their heads above water financially paying for this, that and the simmering stress demanding some vegging out time in Maine. Where it can be so quiet that you do hear yourself think. Where wildlife habitats can soothe the stings and scars of the price paid for city living. That does not come without a cost.
The local food, the yarn stories shared with tourists about how the local turf runs, how the small Maine town got to this point along the way. History of the area is rich and rewarding if shared with a local person to person. Not a few lines machined and printed on the four color brochure that was not written by a local resident of the small Maine town. Tell me, show me why you live in the small Maine town. Let the tourist consider if they did and they will return when treated like they already live here. Brag up big wigs who for years have trot trotted from Boston and beyond to Maine.
Getting into the habit of really wanting to help the brand new to the community tourist. The ones who ask for directions or to get the insider tip on where is a good place to eat, to stay. Answering the “what do you do for fun” question with a slew of suggestion for the traveling through your area tourist. Give him or her, their families reasons for hanging around.
By saying and meaning it sincerely after you provide the local information. With a smile, “I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in my corner of Maine.” A good habit if you really believe to have friends you need to be one. So the stranger is not one for long because of a gracious glad you are here feeling conveyed to them. That shows you the local are pretty darn happy and you know it. Clap you hands. Stamp your feet. (Now that song is stuck in a loop in your head. S0 sorry. Really)
It’s never been a better time to be a small rural Maine community that steps it up to attract more tourism dollars. Heck the bottom of the Maine license plate made at the state prison is the black and white reminder. “Vacationland” is thee nickname of Maine for a good reason, adopted many moons ago.
What made, still makes the small Maine town great? It takes critical thinking and getting ready for tourism to help the process along. And not trying to make the rural, sparsely populated placed thrown into the ring. To go toe to toe with a larger city approach to tourism. We are not in the same weight class and compete different. We hold different marketing cards to play in the game of tourist attraction. That many other small Maine towns are around the same poker table. After those same tourists to come see ME, my area of Maine.
We did have a number of Phish concerts in Northern Maine at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone. But to attract those kinds of numbers to shake and grove to Maine on a large B-52 size runway through out the year is probably not realistic. Chalk Dust Torture in the winter with hands overhead swaying even with legalized pot is not going to happen.
Discussions locally on what we should be pushing for and what would or not work can go poorly. If you disagree and point out why. Not everyone respects your difference of opinion when discouraged and looking for a quick fix. A bandaid for a gunshot wound. Because they see the small Maine town as something it is not. Instead of what it is capable of sustaining with manpower and dwindling available dollars. Where the small town or regional area of Maine could shine brightly if a different, collectively agreed upon direction is taken. It takes many late night meetings and heated discussions. A plan Stan that gets launched and modified with tweaks along the way.
Don’t wait for government to fix it or adjust the “sales” to foster more Maine tourism. It takes individual grass roots effort on the local level to step up and take on the volunteering. You have to have the locals buying in and knowing leadership is on the right path.
To invest in small tourism-fueled businesses to make the Maine rural town a destination starts with what are your strengths and weaknesses. What are you selling. And not for the entire vacation week or long weekend of the tourist. But partnering with other areas. To catch the traveler coming and going.
Maine is lucky to be next door to Canada, to make it a two nation vacation. Local food, local attractions and a connection to the lifestyles of local people is what they want. They get bored if they don’t get fed that. Share the tourist and building their trip with other in-state and out of country partners over home eh? To get them to return for more. It is more than one visit we are after right boys and girls? Make it a habit. Let the tug on the heartstrings of Maine be a strong one. That vacation falls in love with Maine’s allure hook, line and sinker. And does not care at all that they are powerless to stay away from her charms.
They like it, they love it, they want some more of it like the song suggest. They don’t know why but the small town promoting it’s best features does.
The traveling tourist want to see the small rural towns, handful of cities in Maine the way they are. Putting on the tourism goggle to see the local area the way someone who has never been here before does. That critical look through the lens makes it clear where to push the tourism promotion levers.
If we already have visitors coming to fish, bike, hike, hunt, river raft, and relax, keep banging the drum geared for that audience segment. Keep spreading the word and tapping the social media channels about wildlife, clean water, fresh air and all this natural four season space.
Without that tourism lens put on, though, it is easy to miss the value and opportunity of the traffic that outdoor recreation already generates. To see the subtle differences all the areas of Maine offer to the tourist. Like what happens when you venture into say Downeast Maine. The culture, heritage and real day to day not something spun or artificial slick is what the Griswald’s are after to experience on a family vacation to Maine.
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