January 7, 2019
19 on '19

Government perspective: Pace of tourism may slow, but growth will continue

Photo / Courtesy of the Maine Office of Tourism
Photo / Courtesy of the Maine Office of Tourism
Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism

Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism, predicts continued growth in visitor numbers, but perhaps at a slower rate.

Since 2012, Maine has seen about 5% annual average increase in visitation overall, and a first-time visitation growth rate of about 17% annually. First-time visitors have been a focus of the state's tourism campaign.

"We've gone gangbusters with the campaign," he says. "So we're hopeful that will continue."

The Maine office of Tourism is drafting its new five-year strategic plan, to be introduced in 2019.

"We're still looking for growth," he says. But at some point, he says, the future rate of increase could be in the 2% to 3% range.

"You can't sustain 5% percent growth," he continues. "Average growth around the U.S. is 2% to 3%. So we've been ahead of that, but as some point those numbers, I think, will come down a bit."

Congestion at tourism hotspots will continue, he says, but so will efforts to address the issue.

"We continue to try to promote alternative transportation, try to get people, for example, to consider taking a train to Maine from Boston," he says. "The challenge we're probably going to see in the future is, how do you spread the people out into the more rural and remote areas in the state, because public transportation doesn't exist to do that."

The state agency will also continue to promote destinations throughout the state, working with attractions off the beaten path to expand hours and update amenities such as wifi.

He says providers and venues are making the shift and he expects that will continue.

"Greenville is going through a transformation now," Lyons says by way of example. They did a rebranding a few years ago with an independent third-party group, and now have a working group to raise their visibility as a tourist destination."

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