Zooming in on tourists

For the first time, Maine is aiming its tourism advertising directly at specific types of visitors.
The ad campaign planned for this spring will attempt to exploit the findings of a recent study showing that Maine is popular among people who come here for car tours and for outdoor adventures. The new ads will be aimed directly at these types of tourists in the hope of luring more of them to Maine this summer.

Maine tourism activities
Touring 36%
Outdoors 22%
Beach 10%
Business/Pleasure 9%
Special Events 7%
Country Resorts 5%
City 4%
Ski 4%
Other Pleasure 2%

Source: Maine Office of Tourism

The $600,000 spring and summer campaign also will penetrate deeper into the mid-Atlantic states and rely almost exclusively on larger, splashier, full-color print advertisements. Portraying Maine as unique and exciting, the ads are designed to spur people to call for more information.

The state is using extensive and ongoing research to decide whom to target and what to tell them. The ads themselves will vary somewhat to appeal to different audiences.

If successful, the ads will help boost Maine's market position among popular destinations competing for tourist dollars. Maine's market share had declined for three years at mid-decade.

''It is a good thing that you started getting your act together now, folks,'' said Bill Siegel, president of Longwoods. ''You have been losing market share.''

The research, conducted by Toronto-based Longwoods International, is also being used to bolster an argument for increased spending on tourism.

''There is more recognition than I have seen before about the impact of tourism,'' said David B. Swardlick, head of Portland-based Swardlick Marketing Group. ''We have had successful campaigns in the past, but now we can see so clearly how to sharpen them.''

The eight-ad campaign, produced by Swardlick, includes a windjammer sailing past Rockland Harbor with the headline, ''No Matter How You Get Here A Trip To Maine Will Take You Back'' and one with a photo of mountain bikers that reads, ''Think of Us As a 33,000 Square Mile Health Club.''

The initial research by Longwoods, in addition to tabbing touring and outdoor activities as the state's top two draws, establishes base ideas about the state that are both good and bad.

Touring involves driving trips that include many stops and no single destination. Outdoor adventures include mountain biking, kayaking and white-water rafting.

According to research conducted before last summer's advertising blitz, Maine lost market share between 1994 and 1996 as the number of overnight visitors to the state remained relatively static, while other regions saw an increase.

In the region from Maine to Washington D.C., Maine had a 4.5 percent tourism market share in 1994. That fell .7 percentage points to 3.8 percent share in 1996, according to Longwoods.

Also, the state's ranking in several key tourism catagories fell during the same period. Including 50 states and 19 foreign destinations, Maine's rank fell from 38 to 40 as a destination for all overnight trips, from 24 to 26 for touring trips and from 21 to 25 for outdoor trips.

Longwoods also found that Maine, particularly in the regions outside Boston, did not have a great image. Basically, Maine was not well known. The goal now is to establish a Maine ''brand'' - as with any other consumer product - thus establishing a brand image and personality that creates an emotional allure for potential vacationers.

In its survey, Longwoods found that 48 percent of the people ''strongly agreed'' that Maine was exciting, 54 percent that Maine was affordable, and 12 percent that Maine provided good entertainment.

At the same time, those surveyed identified areas in which Maine lacked strong appeal for tourists, including museums and galleries, historical attractions, nightlife and architecture.

A perceived strength was its lack of crowds - a quality that is not considered a strong tourist draw.

The study showed that those who had visited the state had a much stronger image of Maine than those who had not.

For example, 44 percent of non-visitors ''strongly agreed'' that Maine was exciting, compared with 60 percent of visitors.

''The research is tremendous,'' said Dann H. Lewis, director of the Office of Tourism. ''It will make a tremendous difference going forward.''

This year's $600,000 summer campaign is the second in a five-year tourism plan. Last year's investment produced a spectacular 11 to 1 return, according to Longwoods. That result came in part because Maine had done so little advertising in the past.

The research also is still coming in.

While the baseline study is essentially done, a full analysis of the 1997 campaign - such as who came and where they came from - is still being conducted and will not be released until later this month or perhaps next. Also still to come are the results of the state's fall campaign.

The state Department of Economic Development is using the research about the return on investment and the potential of tourism to bolster its case to the state Legislature for increasing the tourism budget.

The department is seeking $5.4 million for the fiscal year that starts in July, an increase from $4.2 million this year. Last year, the budget was $1.8 million.

This year's advertising is expected to be seen by 10 million people in New England; 13 million in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; 6 million in the eastern United States and 2 million west of the Mississippi.

The touring advertisements will appear in The Boston Globe and The New York Times and such magazines as Yankee, Travel & Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, Endless Vacation, Country Living, Coastal Living and publications of the American Automobile Association.

The outdoor adventure-themed advertising will appear in Outside magazine, Men's Journal, Snow Country and AAA Campbook.

''We are starting to get some significant image development beyond the core market,'' Swardlick said.

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