Visitor Types and Potential Target Markets.
The Bold Coast Scenic Byway Corridor Advocacy Group has identified stimulation of local economies through tourism development
as an overarching goal in promoting the Byway. To accomplish this goal, the Byway must attract visitors who patronize a variety of local businesses. To attract visitors, it must be determined what market groups are most likely to travel to the Bold Coast region, what types of experiences these market groups most want, what barriers might prevent them from traveling more deeply into our region and from staying longer, and how to lower or remove any real or perceived barriers.
Travelers in General
Maine Office of Tourism studies indicate that travelers are generally time-crunched in their normal lives and have a short attention span. They need things to be easy and fast and yet they want value for their dollar. Travelers also want a change of pace from their busy, everyday lives. They want to feel special, to have an authentic and emotionally connected experience with place and self, and to come away with experiences that give them bragging rights and provide photo opportunities. People travel based on personal connection to a place and the experiences they expect to have while visiting, including emotional connection and reconnection with themselves.
According to the Maine Office of Tourism, the 2012 Top Vacation Picks include the beach, culture, and road trips. Travelers in their twenties and thirties are independent and digitally savvy. Travelers in their forties and fifties are time rich and travel hungry. Travelers in their fifties and sixties crave the “local human touch” and meeting the “real” people behind the scenes. Most travelers have higher incomes, college degrees, and are married. Approximately 70% use the Internet for trip planning, both prior to and during the trip. Additionally, shopping, entertainment and dining in a pedestrian friendly environment are the number one visitor activities for all travelers…which is excellent news for downtowns!
What Travelers Want:
- Local flavor
- Learning experiences
- Behind the scenes experiences
- Experts and interesting/flavorful people
- An insider view
- VIP treatment
- Bragging rights
- Total emotional and physical immersion
- High quality and a good deal
Travel trends include:
- Family reunions
- Destination weddings
- Multi-generational travel
- Culinary exploration
- Authentic cultural experiences
The top three purposes that people travel for are:
- Enjoyment of nature
- Touring/visiting sites
Maine Visitor Demographics
According to studies conducted by the Maine Office of Tourism, the 2011 Maine visitor profile looks like this:
- First-time visitors (70-80% of these become repeat visitors…a high number!)
- Repeat visitors (86% of all visitors!)
- Friends and family (57%)
- In-state (and from Canada in areas closer to the border)
- Touring for nature/culture purposes
In addition, business travelers (18%) and leisure visitors (17%) reported the highest instances of being first-time visitors. Recreation (31%), touring (25%), and shopping (19%) were the top reasons reported for overnight leisure trips.
Top travel planning sources include:
- Friends and relatives (very important for the Bold Coast region)
- Social media
In 2011, visitors to Maine were primarily traveling from:
- Massachusetts (22%)
- New York (20%)
- New Jersey
The top phrases visitors used to describe Maine’s vacation assets were:
- Beautiful scenery (75%)
- A great place to relax/unwind (68%)
- Fresh air (68%), clean water (58%)
- Escape from daily routine (52%)
- Good food (52%)
Top trip activities enjoyed by overnight travelers while in the state were:
- Shopping (61%)
- Outdoor activities (56%)
- Resting/relaxing/unwinding (50%)
- Enjoying ocean views (41%), sightseeing (36%)
- Visiting family and friends (31%)
- Driving for pleasure (30%)
- Enjoying local cuisine (27%)
- Exploring state and national parks (14%)
- Visiting historic sites and museums (13%)
- Wildlife viewing/bird watching (12%)
- Viewing fall colors (9%)
The top five reasons that people consider Maine as a travel destination are:
- Relaxing atmosphere
- Easy access
- Good food
Reasons for selecting Maine as an overnight destination were quite varied. The fact that friends and relatives live here attracted 27% of all visitors, just loving the area attracted 10%, being close to their home attracted 9%, business attracted 9%, the beauty of the state attracted 8%, the ocean/beaches attracted 8%, and food, shopping, uniqueness, diversity, scenery, and good attractions were also noted.
Visitors who do not
have children (29%) were more likely than those who do have children (22%) to select Maine because friends/relatives live in Maine. Canadian visitors (15%) are significantly more likely than visitors from the US (3%) to have selected Maine because of shopping opportunities.
Trends to Watch
are a demographic whose influence on the travel industry will only increase over the next two of decades. According to Roger Brooks, a consultant specializing in creating unique destination travel experiences, baby boomers contribute to 80% of current travel spending across the nation, with 350 thousand people currently turning 50 each month in the US alone. Baby boomers control 70% of the nations’ wealth, and are expected to inherit approximately 8.5 trillion dollars from their families. Travel is the top spending choice of baby boomers, and their preferred travel times are April-May and September-October, when destinations aren’t as crowded. Baby boomers are focused on individuality with an emphasis on retaining a youthful feeling. They want a personal experience as much as they want to learn something new. Boomers will spend more for quality products, but they still want to feel they have gotten a good deal. Related to this, lodging facilities in the top 15% of the quality rating command 85% of leisure travel spending.
or food tourism
is traveling specifically to experience the food of a country, region or area, and is now considered a vital component of the tourism experience. Dining out is common among tourists and "food is believed to rank alongside climate, accommodation, and scenery" in importance to tourists (McKercher, Bob; Okumus, Fevzi and Okumus, Bendegul (2008) 'Food Tourism as a Viable Market Segment: It's All How You Cook the Numbers!' Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing
, 25: 2, 137 — 148)
Culinary tourism is the fastest-growing trend in travel. The International Culinary Tourism Association defines culinary tourism as "the pursuit of unique and memorable culinary experiences of all kinds, often while traveling, but one can also be a culinary tourist at home." (www.culinarytourism.org
Bold Coast Target Markets
The Maine Office of Tourism (MOT) has worked closely with the Bold Coast Corridor Advisory Group to understand our target markets. Based on MOT data, as well as information gathered from local surveys, the most likely target audiences for a marketing program are people who live or are already traveling in other parts of Maine and New Brunswick, and travelers from New England. Friends and family of Bold Coast area residents and visitors attracted to the Acadia region are also important target market groups.
Cultural heritage, touring, and recreational travelers
are perfect niche travel audiences for the Byway region. The MOT is focusing significant marketing resources on bringing first-time visitors to Maine by targeting “experiential” or “cultural heritage tourism” travelers. Considering the wealth of cultural and historic intrinsic qualities, this type of traveler should be a primary target group for the Bold Coast region. With recreation travel already a strong part of the Downeast and Acadia regional tourism market, recreation travelers should be considered a significant secondary market group. The Bold Coast region can also promote itself on the strength of several statewide and regional trails providing motorcycle, bike, snowmobile, ATV, and RV experiences.
According to the MOT, attracting first-time visitors to Maine is eight times more expensive than marketing to current residents or repeat visitors (however, 70-80% of first-time visitors become repeat visitors!)
Priority Marketing Policy Recommendations
- Local efforts should focus on providing the best possible visitor experience to encourage personal connection to the region and provide memorable experiences that inspire word-of-mouth recommendations as well as return visits.
- Marketing objectives for the Bold Coast region should provide an unforgettable, uniquely personal interactive experience and a true cultural immersion.
- Initial marketing should invite those currently visiting and residing in other parts of Maine, New Brunswick, and New England to come “further” and explore the Bold Coast region; and to stay longer and utilize its accommodations, attractions, and services.
Experiential/Cultural Heritage Travelers
According to research conducted by the Maine Office of Tourism, experiential/Cultural Heritage travel is the biggest travel trend today. People want to be transformed through their experiences, to escape busy, urban lives and reconnect with themselves and with nature. Consumers want unique, unusual, compelling, hard to find, exclusive, and unforgettable experiences and products. People choose where they want to travel based on an expectation that they will connect with a place personally through experiencing the landscapes, stories, and activities that authentically represent the true history and culture of the people. The Baby-boomer demographic falls into this category.
State of the American Traveler
, 2012, by Destination Analysts, and Cultural and Heritage Traveler
, 2013, by Mandala Research, provide some national trends in Cultural Heritage tourism:
- 80% of leisure travelers visit cultural or heritage sites
- Cultural Heritage travelers travel more than travelers in general.
- Cultural Heritage travelers are more likely to participate in a broad range of activities and are interested in local food/wine.
- Spending by Cultural heritage travelers has increased since 2004
According to State of the American Traveler
, 2012, Cultural Heritage activities enjoyed by leisure travelers incudes:
- Dining in restaurants (69%)
- Visiting historic places (37%)
- Visiting small towns/villages (34%)
- Sightseeing in rural areas (26%)
- Art galleries/museums (20%)
- Concerts, plays, musicals (20%)
- Driving designated byways (19%)
And key motivators for these travelers are:
Cultural and Heritage Traveler
- Creating lasting memories
- Relaxing and relieving stress
- Trying new experiences
, 2013 provides statistics on the use of technology by Cultural heritage travelers:
- Facebook use for reading and posting (75%)
- Smart phone and tablets used for travel planning (10%)
- Use of Quick Reference codes and smart phones for website visitation (25%+)
- Two out of five use YouTube
- Book within 2 weeks of a trip (20%)
- Book more than 90 days ahead (10%) (a decline from 23% in 2009!)
According to Mandala Research, Cultural Heritage travelers stay longer and spend more money, therefore providing fewer “heads” for a higher value. And, because they tend to become more personally connected to a place, they often become stewards or spokespeople for a region.
The natural and cultural resources of the Bold Coast region and the distinct differences between each of the Byway communities create excellent opportunities for these types of unique experiences and products. The quiet, simple beauty of the landscapes and the friendliness of people in the communities are the perfect backdrops for the relaxing, rejuvenating, and reconnecting experiences these travelers desire. Bold Coast communities are small, rural, historic villages rich in restaurants, museums, galleries, and historic sites. The authentic, intact culture of iconic, resource-based economies (lobster fishing, blueberry harvesting) provides memorable learning experiences. The Bold Coast Scenic Byway is closely connected to a network of other scenic byways in both Maine and New Brunswick, providing longer scenic touring opportunities for travelers and creating marketing and promotion partnership opportunities within a much larger region.
Marketing to Experiential/Cultural Heritage Travelers
According to Culturalheritagetourism.org
, visitors tend to remember 10% of what they hear, 30% of what they read, 50% of what they see, and 90% of what they DO! Marketing should engage the five senses…touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound… in marketing strategies as well as in visitor opportunities and amenities.
Opportunities should be created for the traveller to physically and emotionally interact with people, places, history, and activities, and to personally experience new things. Interactive (rather than simply “interpretive”) sites, story-telling events, lumberjack competitions/demonstrations, hands-on farm/boat tours, guided tours led by locals, volun-tourism/enviro-tourism are some examples of experiences to market to the Cultural Heritage traveler.
Packaged experiences (E.g. lodging-dining-boat tour-museum tour-farm tour) provide easily achievable, experiences for travelers booking close to their travel date, as well as comprehensive learning opportunities for travelers desiring a broad range of quintessentially local experiences.
Opportunities for Experiential/Cultural Heritage visitor interaction with the people and places of the Bold Coast region include:
- Interactive tours of specific heritage sites, cultural activities, and resource industries including fishing and agriculture;
- Arts, theatre, and music events;
- Volun-tourism/Education/Cultural immersion opportunities through intrinsic quality related community development projects;
- Local food opportunities, especially including “tour to table”;
- Wildlife viewing, bird watching, nature tours, fall color tours; and
- Sailing, paddling, riding ATV’s and snowmobiles, hunting and fishing (including ice fishing), snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
The goal of culinary tourism is to educate and inspire food and beverage enthusiasts while giving the traveler a chance to explore the local area and learn about local food trends, cooking techniques, and food history. Culinary tours and travel packages can include a wide range of activities related to cooking, food sampling, food trends, wine or beer making, and baking.
With growing international interest in local foods and sustainable agriculture, culinary tourism is an eco-tourism spinoff that can promote environmental stewardship and cultural preservation. Food-focused tours help small shops and restaurants gain their share of tourist dollars, support the region’s growing sustainable agriculture movement, and provide tourists with a sample of local cuisine, history, and culture.
The Bold Coast region hosts a community of passionate foodies who believe in fresh, local, authentic products and sustainable food systems, and who delight in any opportunity to share a story, and food, with visitors.
Travel focused on culinary experiences along the Bold Coast Scenic Byway provides opportunities for visitors to connect and share stories with people for whom every day is about cultivating, harvesting, and preparing an array of fresh, local foods.
Marketing to Culinary Travelers
Local opportunities for Culinary Travel abound in the Bold Coast region, especially including “tour to table” experiences, which provide an opportunity to learn “in the field” about the ecology and biology of food items, methods of harvesting and preparation, and often ending with local methods of eating — such as beachside clam bakes and lobster feeds!
Aside from the traditional method of sampling local food at local eateries, Classes, special event meals on farms, farmers’ markets, B&B’s, fish markets, and roadside stands are also excellent methods for finding and tasting local foods and local chefs.
Marketing to culinary travelers should focus on existing opportunities to interact with local food producers. Additionally, new opportunities should be sought to create more comprehensive experiences (learning the story of food from biology/ecology to family tradition and local economy to harvest to processing to the finished meal.)
Existing opportunities include both formal and informal tours and tastings, available from vendors as diverse as farmers’ markets to seafood processors to fishing tour operators to retail shops to restaurants. These experiences could be made both richer and more accessible for visitors through partnerships that provide food tour packages, as well as through itineraries developed around the Bold Coast culinary experience. Existing opportunities to be promoted and expanded upon include:
- Sea salt
- Maple syrup
- Chocolate, candies, popcorn
- Wine & Beer
- Lobster, clams, salmon, mussels, oysters, etc.
- Baked goods
- Cheese, milk, eggs, and meat
Outdoor Recreation Travelers
According to 2011 MOT data, about one third (31%) of overnight leisure visitors reported outdoor recreation as the primary purpose for their visit. The destination of these leisure/recreation visitors included:
- Beaches of southern Maine (30%)
- Downeast and Acadia (20%)
- Portland and Casco Bay area (16%)
- Mid-coast Maine (11%)
Leisure visitors to Maine prefer the following activities:
- Going to the beach (29%)
- Hiking and climbing (21%)
- Outdoor swimming (16%)
- Biking (8%)
- Kayaking (6%)
- Fishing (6%)
Those visiting friends and relatives (VFR travelers) reported that they prefer essentially the same activities:
Marketing to Outdoor Recreation Travelers
- Going to the beach ((21%)
- Hiking and climbing (13%)
- Outdoor swimming (14%)
- Biking (7%)
- Canoeing (7%)
- Kayaking (6%)
Numerous, diverse opportunities for outdoor recreation already exist in the Bold Coast region. Local and regional partnerships that provide lodging, dining, and recreation packages (such as equipment rental) will help visitors utilize all the recreation opportunities available to them.
Existing trails, water access points, and outdoor infrastructure should be utilized to their greatest potential. Recreation marketing should focus on promoting those activities and sites most equipped to accommodate tourism in a safe, enjoyable and sustainable manner. Sites and activities not yet fully visitor-ready should be better developed, including safe and easy public access, better way finding, and more public facilities such as toilets and picnic tables. New opportunities that will increase access to recreation include equipment rental, shuttle service, recreation-based events, and guided tours.
In order to insure safety and protect natural resources, marketing efforts should promote the use of registered Maine Guides, knowledge of low-impact recreation ethics, and multi-modal (motorized and non-motorized), season-specific safety information and trail-sharing etiquette.
Marketing winter sports will help sustain recreation providers year round. Existing promotable winter sports opportunities abound in the Bold Coast region, including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing. New opportunities include developing winter festivals focused on winter sports (New Brunswick is a perfect model and potential partner for winter festival opportunities).
Downeast & Acadia Travelers
According to the National Park Service, approximately 2,431,052 people visited Acadia National Park (and thus Mount Desert Island) in 2012. The MOT 2011 visitor survey reveals that most visitors to the Downeast & Acadia region visited Mount Desert Island, with only 5% - 10% of visitors venturing “beyond Bar Harbor” to the Bold Coast region. Approximately 15% of Downeast & Acadia visitors reported staying overnight. The average overnight leisure visitor was 35 years of age and up, earned greater than $50,000 per year in full-time employment, was married, and had a college degree.
Most visitors to the Downeast/Acadia region are from:
- New York (20%)
- Massachusetts (22%)
- Pennsylvania (9%)
- New Brunswick (9%)
- Maine (5%)
Primary trip purposes included outdoor recreation and touring. At least half of overnight leisure visitors reported enjoying:
- outdoor recreation;
- enjoying ocean views;
- sightseeing; resting; and
- enjoying mountain views.
Going to the beach was the most popular leisure activity (29%), followed by hiking or climbing (21%) and outdoor swimming (16%).
Marketing to Downeast & Acadia Travelers
Marketing should focus on outdoor recreation and cultural heritage opportunities and should promote a quiet, less-populated experience — to “get away from it all.” Visitors being enticed to come “further” from the Acadia region want their trip to be relaxing, and different. Travelers may be on day-trips or short overnights. Marketing efforts should provide easily accessible opportunities that connect recreation with the cultural relationship between the landscape and the people. Examples include guided, hands-on opportunities; interpretive stations at trail heads and campsites; and self-guided web and print map tours. Businesses and organizations offering on-site, interactive, and packaged outdoor cultural experiences should be supported and promoted.
According to the 2011 MOT visitor survey, over half (57%) of overnight visitors to Maine were visiting family and relatives (VFR visitors), who live in Maine and 15% visited Maine because it is close to their home. More VFR visitors without children chose Maine as a destination.
Preferred destinations of overnight VFR visitors in Maine are:
- Beaches of the southern Maine coast (20%)
- Greater Portland and Casco Bay (19%)
- Lakes and mountains (14%)
- Downeast & Acadia (12%)
Most (63%) travelers whose primary purpose was to visit family and friends in Maine were on a general visit rather than to attend a special occasion or for a holiday. Quality time with family and friends was reported by 38% of overnight VFR visitors to Maine as the highlight of their trip to Maine, while 11% reported the beaches, ocean, and outdoor activities as the highlight.
VFR visitors reported engaging in:
Marketing to Family and Friends Visitors
- Outdoor activities (54%)
- Shopping for gifts and souvenirs (54%)
- Resting, relaxing, and unwinding (54%)
- Enjoying ocean views (37%)
- Sightseeing (31%)
- Driving for pleasure (27%)
Marketing should include a focus on all-weather, easy-to-access activities appropriate for all ages, and should also incorporate culture/heritage opportunities that provide opportunities for deeper connection with “home”. A multitude of family-friendly activities already exist in the Bold Coast region year-round, although they are often promoted mainly to residents. These activities should continue and be promoted to residents and their visitors. Itineraries and brochures on prime VFR experiences will allow visitors to pre-plan their family/friend activities, leaving more time for relaxing and reconnecting with friends, family, and home.
The Eastern Canadian market, made up of long-time visitors to the state, is a prime target for Bold Coast visitation due to their proximity. According to the 2011 MOT visitor survey, Canadians are already traveling to Maine for shopping (76% of overnight visitors from Canada come with the main purpose of shopping). Much fewer overnight visitors from Canada are coming for other purposes:
- Outdoor activities (49%)
- Resting/relaxing (36%)
- Enjoying the ocean views (34%)
- Sightseeing (32%)
- Driving for pleasure (32%)
- Visiting historic museums or sites (11%)
These opportunities are already available within Canada, and for many the international border crossing experience may seem daunting. According to the Maine Office of Tourism (MOT) “an opportunity exists to reinvigorate this market and drive fresh visitation from it. This is particularly important as the core Canadian visitors age. Maine will need to attract young visitors to ensure strong Canadian visitation in the future.” MOT and Tourism New Brunswick are currently engaged in an international promotion of the “Two Nation Vacation.” This creates an opportunity to link resources and create greater connections between the two regions, which share many cultural, economic, historic, and recreational assets.
A small sample of shared assets that could be developed into international vacation opportunities includes:
Marketing to Canadian visitors
- Dark skies
- Undeveloped coastlines
- Geology & marine life
- Quiet and solitude
- Scenic byways
- Regional trails
- Native and Settlement History
- Vibrant downtowns
- Chocolate/wine/ cheese/seafood
Marketing strategies should include shopping and dining but focus on unique products and outdoor adventures…such as a lobster boat tour that ends in a lobster feast; a historic village walking tour with art and crafts galleries visited along the way; or a trail ride with historic service centers as beginning and end points that offer local crafts, fresh food, and intimate lodging.
The Bold Coast region should embrace the Maine Office of Tourism’s (MOT) Two-nation Vacation marketing strategy and promote awareness of shared cultural, historic, and recreational assets. As much as possible, international border crossing procedures should be streamlined and customer service improved, and information should be shared with travelers to reduce the mystery, inconvenience, and reluctance.
Touring, Scenic Driving, and Byway Travelers in Maine
According to the 2011 MOT visitor survey, about one third (31%) of overnight leisure visitors reported touring as their primary purpose for visiting Maine. Repeat visitors (22%) were significantly less likely than first time visitors (41%) to report that the primary purpose of their trip was touring. Because MOT data is more generalized, collecting local data about Byway travelers would be helpful in tracking Bold Coast needs and opportunities. Surveys could be done at local service businesses or in person, with volunteers approaching visitors at scenic turnouts, picnic areas, and events, etc.
This was the approach of surveys conducted by students at the University of Maine at Orono (2007) on the Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway and the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway. They found that most travelers stopping at scenic turnouts and picnic areas were enjoying vacation travel or leisure activity. Approximately half of these travelers lived in Maine; a high proportion of Maine travelers were taking day trips. Of those who came from outside the state, most came from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. Most common party size was 2 adults. Approximately half of travelers were between the ages of 38 and 57 years.
The Bold Coast Scenic Byway is part of a well-established state and national scenic byways program. The Byway is also closely connected to New Brunswick’s scenic drives program by proximity as well as program goals. The Maine Office of Tourism and Tourism New Brunswick are important partners in cross-border promotion, and they are already heavily invested in these efforts. The Bold Coast Scenic Byway provides a critical link in the Two-nation Vacation effort. These are powerful marketing assets that need to be utilized.
Marketing to Scenic Byway touring travelers
Strategies should focus on comprehensive promotional material for businesses, organizations, events, activities, and themed tours that are easily accessible from the main roadway. These highlighted places and activities should provide a quintessential experience of the nature and culture of the Byway region with sample itineraries offering day trips, overnight trips, and several-night stays. Recreational activities should include scenic turnouts, picnic areas, public beaches, and easily accessible scenic walking trails. Accommodations, services, and opportunities for RV, tour bus, and motorcycle travelers should be evaluated and promoted as appropriate.
2013 Bold Coast Scenic Byway Visitor Survey
The Maine Office of Tourism (MOT) collects visitor surveys for the Downeast and Acadia tourism region. In 2012, 5% - 10% of visitors ventured “beyond Bar Harbor” to the area folks from Washington County proudly call “The Real Downeast,” and which is now widely referred to as The Bold Coast region (MOT 2012 Downeast-Acadia Regional Report
). Due to the extreme differences between the visitor experience in Acadia/Bar Harbor and in the Bold Coast region, data collected for the entire Downeast and Acadia region is not reflective of visitation trends further east in Washington County.
This lack of visitor information specific to the Bold Coast region inspired a 2013 visitor survey modeled after the MOT visitor survey and distributed specifically to Bold Coast region visitors. Surveys were distributed at tourism destinations throughout the region over a period of six weeks, and visitors were given an option to complete the survey online. A total of 58 surveys were submitted.
A summary of the survey results is included here. For the full survey report, please see Appendix 2.
Why they came:
Visitors to the Bold Coast region (during the survey period of late summer/early fall) tend to be over 50 and traveling as couples. Visitors are attracted to the region for its beauty; peace and quiet and getting away from crowds; the feeling that it is “the road-less-traveled” and “the real Downeast Maine”. Other important area attractants are recreation opportunities, the small-town experience, and wildlife watching. Relaxation, sightseeing, and enjoying nature are main purposes for visiting. When asked to describe the region or their experience here, the words visitors most used were beautiful, peaceful, relaxing, quiet, and friendly.
Who they are:
Visitors tended to be in the $51K-$100K income range, and reported spending $101-$150 per night on lodging (mostly hotels/motels and B&Bs) and $50-$100 per day on dining. Shopping, museums, and recreation were reported as a low daily expense. Increasing multi-night stays and access to opportunities will help increase visitor spending on daily activities and entertainment. Attractive, pre-packaged experiences will help encourage visitors to increase spending while also providing the good deals they desire (and potentially inspire them to stay another night!)
How long they stayed:
Most survey respondents reported staying for 2-3 nights and up to a week. Seven percent of respondents reported visiting for only one day. Of those that stayed for at least one night, most popular accommodation choices included hotel/motels, bed and breakfasts, and cabin/cottages. These types of accommodations should receive improvement and new development as visitation numbers and lodging needs increase.
What they enjoy doing here:
Most respondents had been to the area before, and most are connected to the area through friends and family. These visitors rely on family and friends for activity recommendations. Most use the Internet for trip planning and also plan their trips while in the region. Regional tourism associations and Chambers of Commerce are not well utilized as a planning resource, although most respondents didn’t know much about the region before they traveled.
Survey respondents predominantly visited the beach/ocean, seafood restaurants, and parks, underscoring the interest in sightseeing and nature. Respondents reported most enjoying ocean views, eating local food, sightseeing, and hiking. Blueberry fields and “nature centers” are underutilized, probably due to the lack of public knowledge and public access. Lobster pounds, lobster boat tours, lakes and rivers, blueberry fields, and farms are among the desired experiences on return trips.
What will bring them back
: Overwhelmingly, visitors would return or recommend a trip to a friend or family member. Improvements that would most enhance visitor experiences (as well as benefitting residents) include greater cell phone and wireless Internet access, more/better dining choices, better way-finding signage, and the development of visitor centers and rest stops.
The Bold Coast region already boasts the most desired assets—the challenge for this region comes in providing easily accessible public experiences, while not interfering with working landscapes. A misperception that permeates many experiences (those of local residents, as well) is that “there isn’t much to do” here.
Priority Marketing Policy Recommendation:
Opportunities to turn this around to benefit both residents and visitors include discovering, enhancing, packaging, and promoting those opportunities that do exist, as well as making them more accessible to the average traveler.
Another perception that can come across negatively is that of a regional decline. Opportunities to turn this around in a beneficial manner include historic preservation, downtown revitalization, and economic development initiatives.
Some survey respondents noted that the Bold Coast experience might be “too rugged for some” and “is not for everyone”. Although this is true of many places, it is also true that “there is something for everyone”. Diverse experiences exist, and the region should be promoted as such. Additionally, clear and truthful information about what the visitor can expect should be provided on websites and in brochures in order to minimize the instances of unprepared visitors having potentially negative experiences.
The Bold Coast region traveler (at least those visiting in late summer and early fall) seems to fit the general Maine visitor profile: repeat visitors with connections to friends and family who are seeking beauty, relaxation, and enjoyment of nature along the coast. The Bold Coast region visitor profile revealed through this survey exemplifies the “experiential” or “heritage” traveler. These travelers seek unique experiences and products in an authentic community and personal interaction with local people. These travelers want relaxing, rejuvenating, and reconnecting experiences and the quiet, simple beauty of coastal landscapes. They will tend to stay longer and spend more money, and, because they tend to become more personally connected to a place, they often become stewards or spokespeople for a region.
2014 Bold Coast Scenic Byway Business Owner Survey
In January 2014, business owners along the Bold Coast Scenic Byway corridor were asked to respond to an on-line survey about their businesses. Utilizing Chamber of Commerce business member lists, Bold Coast Scenic Byway stakeholder lists, and local knowledge, over 220 links to the online survey were emailed (or sent by US mail to those whose emails were not readily available). A total of 60 business owners provided information about their business characteristics, seasons, assets, promotion and marketing methods, plans for business expansion, and any assistance needed.
A variety of business types are represented in survey responses, although nearly half were lodging with nearly ¼ each being art galleries, gift shops, and suppliers of local products. Other business types responding to the survey include dining, entertainment, and environmental-education; sightseeing, guided tours, sports/recreation, and special events; information centers; commercial agriculture or fisheries and family farms; and campgrounds, library/resource centers, self-guided tours, RV parks, and museum/historical societies.
A summary of the survey results is included here. For the full survey report, please see Appendix 3.
A number of important marketing and promotion considerations are made clear through this survey of business owners.
Being open for business:
The number of respondents offering year-round as opposed to seasonal services is exactly the same (50%). Mondays are the most common days that businesses are closed. Approximately 44% of survey respondents would like to increase the number of days or hours that they are open. If more businesses expand their open days to include Mondays, visitors could more consistently access the opportunities they came for, resulting in a better experience for visitors and a greater chance for repeat customers and positive reviews.
Expanding the shoulder seasons:
Approximately 28% of survey respondents want to expand the length of their seasons. Most businesses are operating between 75% and 100% of their capacity between June and October. November/December and April/May are already good shoulder seasons for many businesses, which report operating at between 50% and 100% of their capacity.
A focus on expansion and promotion of activities and services available in April/May and November/December is necessary to maximize on existing shoulder seasons, and boost the region’s reputation for being a destination during these months.
The three advertising methods most commonly used
by survey respondents are business websites; local Chambers of Commerce; and local business display racks. Other methods commonly used are local events, travel guides/brochures, and Social Media. Local events and Social Media pages are advertising methods that may be underutilized among survey respondents, who consider them to be less effective than other marketing methods. Approximately 21% of all respondents said Social Media is a most
effective marketing tool while 19% are still learning about it. Local business display racks and local events were reported as being the least effective marketing methods by 22% of users. Individual business websites are considered by survey respondents to be the most effective tool.
Marketing research should strive to understand how to make information display racks and local events more effective marketing tools for Byway businesses. Business training opportunities in effective online advertising, including website design, product promotion, and Social Media should continue, with an eye toward future trends. One recommendation from the Corridor Advisory Group was to create a Bold Coast regional website portal where visitors can easily access Chambers of Commerce and similar destination websites. This has been done (boldcoastbyway.com) and will continue to be developed as more content is created.
Business Services, Products, and Assets:
The assets, services, and products most effectively utilized in promotion include locally owned/operated, family-friendly, unique or highly desired merchandise, locally grown/made products, and good price, in that order of importance to visitors. These aspects of regional products, services, and experiences should be supported and enhanced.
Packaged specials are NOT offered by 81% of businesses, while another 12% are still learning about this. Economic development efforts focused on supporting and encouraging these partnerships should continue and increase.
ADA accessibility is NOT an option in 51% of businesses, while, 24% of businesses reported that this was a somewhat effective marketing tool. Support should be given as much as possible to businesses striving to increase ADA accessibility of their businesses.
Desirable Regional Qualities:
Qualities of the region deemed most effective
as a business promotion tool include getting away from it all; downeast allure, ocean side/ocean views; relaxation/rejuvenation; location; unspoiled nature; small, friendly communities; and working waterfronts.
promotional qualities include abundant wildlife; views other than water views; cultural events/community festivals; local food; and recreational opportunities.
Priority Marketing Policy Recommendation:
Among the list of the most desired qualities in the region, preservation and enhancement of working waterfronts will benefit our commercial fisheries, the business owners who depend on fisheries, and the visitors who want to experience this rare and valuable way of life. Maintaining a positive relationship between fisheries and tourism is critical to the success of our entire region.
Those assets most desirable to visitors include natural resources and the quality of life found here. Efforts to preserve and promote these should continue. Hunting and fishing is not reported as a strong visitor asset, although it is known to be a strong asset for residents. This provides an opportunity to utilize local experts and Maine Guides to help visitors access hunting and fishing opportunities. Increased attention should be given to marketing cultural events/community festivals, local culinary experiences, and guided tours.
Respondents generally would like more information prior to considering sponsoring a travel writer or a familiarization (FAM) tour hosted by the Maine Office of Tourism, and nearly half stated that they would consider hosting a tour guest.
Most survey respondents feel their businesses are “visitor ready”, which allows more intensive marketing and promotion of the region to begin! More effort should now go into encouraging business to partner up and package their ready-and-waiting services and products in order to make trip planning and traveling more visitor friendly. Themed itineraries and itineraries based on amount of time in the area will help visitors learn where to go and what to do when they get here. Area information, itineraries, and regional maps should be easily accessible to visitors once they arrive.
Expansion of Services:
The most common business expansions desired are partnering and packaging services with other businesses, adding local foods/local products, and providing educational/cultural programs. Again, regional trainings, networking, and other support should be offered to help businesses achieve this.
Assistance Needed for Growth:
Attraction of enough customers to expand the season is needed in order for many businesses to expand. Marketing and promotion efforts should strive to promote any available opportunities for April/May and November/December, and communities, individuals, and businesses should be encouraged to create new shoulder season opportunities.
Grants and small business loans for business expansion are needed, along with building partnerships and networks. This is a prime opportunity for greater community collaboration around collective visions and goals. Organizations involved in cultural/heritage/recreation/resource preservation should find more ways to create public/private partnerships with members of the business community.
Online classes would help those who need to improve their skills in using social media and designing websites but who can’t always travel to classes in-person.
What Are The Barriers To Visitors And How Can We Lower Them?
In 2011, overnight visitors to Maine reported the following things that could be improved: not enough time, bad weather, better and more dining, and availability and quality of lodging accommodations. Maine was rated better than other travel destinations by 50% to 82% of overnight travelers in all categories except quality of lodging, availability of lodging, and availability of fine dining.
Respondents to the 2013 Bold Coast Scenic Byway visitor’s survey listed several aspects of their trip that could be improved. The most desired improvement is better cell phone or Internet access. Other desired improvements are more or better dining choices, signage for hiking trails, and visitor centers or rest stops. The top three words used to describe the Bold Coast experience include beautiful, peaceful, and relaxing. Other words describing the characteristics that set the region apart from so many others include quiet, friendly, and unspoiled.
Although not much can be done about people’s vacation availability or the weather, some efforts can be made to simplify trip planning through networked sites and packaging; internet marketing, trip planning, and reservations; and infill development of tourist accommodations and services. Efforts can also improve indoor visitor experiences and highlight all-weather activities; upgrade and expand museums; offer more unique or diverse shopping and dining options; provide covered outdoor picnic areas and interpretive visitor centers; improve hotel accommodations; and provide more indoor festivals, shows, and art galleries.
Visitors described Maine as having beautiful scenery; being a great place to unwind and relax; having fresh air and clean water; being an escape from daily routine; being a great place for a family vacation; having good outdoor recreation activities; being an unspoiled environment; and having clean beaches. One of the greatest things about the Bold Coast region is that it offers all of these qualities in one place.
This means that overnight visitors who are crunched for time could find this region increasingly attractive as a place to get away from it all where everything they need is easily and quickly accessible.
Increasingly, travelers utilize mobile devices to plan their trips, and often plan “on the fly”, relying on local Internet connections at their hotels, at cafes, and in public places. Augmented reality apps, QR codes, and mobile hotspots are used nationwide, and as younger travelers become the predominant traveler demographic, the reliance on mobile devices will increase. First time visitors are significantly more likely than repeat visitors to do additional trip research while they are in Maine (80% v. 57%). Households with children are significantly more likely than households without children to do additional trip research while they are in Maine (68% v. 57%). Visitors under age 35 (37%) are significantly more likely than visitors age 35-‐44 (29%), 45-‐54 (19%) and 55+ (13%) to use a mobile device to research places to go and things to do during their trip to Maine.
Across the United States, Cultural Heritage travelers are 3 times more likely to use mobile devices to find travel deals, recommendations, and information. According to Mandala Research, 75% use Facebook to read and post travel information. Ten % plan while traveling using smart phones and tablets, more than 25% us QR codes or smart phones, 20% book their trip within 2 weeks of traveling, and only 10% book their trip more than 90 days ahead (a decline from 23% in 2009).
Currently, the Bold Coast communities are not consistently meeting this demand for Internet and cellular service. Although one marketing approach is to focus on the “unplugged” appeal, this will not prove fruitful in helping travellers maneuver their way around the communities, nor will it increase the ease of trip planning or business networking, nor will this approach encourage visitors to increase their stays if business must be attended to. Those who want to “unplug” can still do so.
Priority Recommendations To Lower Barriers To Visitation
- Communicate the year-round, all-weather activities, services, and events that exist, and help visitors consider appropriate weather- and seasonal-related preparations.
- Maintain honesty about the types of experiences to be had, and focus marketing efforts on helping visitors turn any challenges they may face into newfound opportunities.
- Marketing strategies could focus not only on the simple, quiet, and accessible experiences that visitors would have once they arrive, but also on creating a simple, stress-free trip planning experience.
- Work with businesses to offer carefully selected packaging options, strong advertising networks, comprehensive yet clear information sources such as websites and brochures, and well-trained service providers.
- Wireless and cellular access should be enhanced and promoted.
The Corridor Advocacy Group has identified improvements of the following facilities, services and businesses as critical to advancing byway goals and objectives of attracting and retaining overnight visitors:
- New or renovated/expanded dining and lodging facilities;
- Informational facilities or interpretive centers - to provide details on lodging, camping, dining and recreational opportunities in the area, and to explain historical/natural significance of intrinsic byway resources;
- Museums or cultural centers that tell the byway story;
- Recreational/rental facilities, such as bicycles, boats, kayaks, guided tours; nature trail development;
- Infrastructure to support nature-based commercial industries; and
- Retail shops providing basic necessities for residents and travelers.
- Context-sensitive cell towers—for instance, located on existing structures;
- Directional signage for recreational facilities and community assets such as historic sites and downtown centers; and
- Scenic turnouts, picnic areas, and public toilet facilities.