S5E5 Maine Tourism: Trends and Sustainable Hospitality (Part 2)

This episode features a one-on-one interview with Charlene Virgilio, executive director of Four Directions. Then, you’ll hear a panel discussion with Tracy Michaud, Steve Lyons, and Rauni Kew on Maine’s tourism trends and hospitality.

Tracy Michaud’s coauthored Maine Policy Review article: “The Role of Aquatourism in Sustaining Maine’s Working Waterfronts”

 Steve Lyons’s Maine Policy Review article: “Coastal Tourism in Maine”


[00:00:00] Rauni Kew: We can still make money, still have tourism as having an inspirational experience here. So I would love to see more people get involved, looking around, thinking, who can I collaborate with? Is there a state park or a city park that I can collaborate with around preserving and protecting something?

[00:00:24] Eric Miller: That was Rauni Kew one of our panelists in our conversation about tourism trends in Maine.

Hello and welcome back to Maine Policy Matters, the official podcast of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, where we discuss the policy matters that are most important to Maine’s people and why Maine policy matters at the local, state, and national levels. My name is Eric Miller, and I’ll be your host.

Today’s episode will feature a one-on-one interview with Charlene Virgilio. Then, you’ll hear a panel discussion with Tracy Michaud, Steve Lyons, and Rauni Kew on Maine’s tourism trends and hospitality.

Charlene Virgilio, a citizen of Penobscot Nation, has worked to help develop Indigenous leaders and drive tribal economic development her entire career. She started at IBM, where she managed regional and global teams and strategic initiatives. While leading efforts to help develop Native American leaders within the company, she has also served on the Penobscot council for two terms, where she chaired both tribal and intertribal economic committees. As the Executive Director at Four Seasons Development Corporations, or FDDC, a Native American Community Development Financial Institution in Orono, Maine, she focuses on improving the social and economic conditions of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Mi’kmaq Tribes through education and capital deployment.

In addition to their core mission, FDDC has actively developed and is leading several initiatives to help advance tribal economic sovereignty, which includes a Wabanaki cultural tourism initiative, This initiative intends to build a robust Wabanaki tourism industry by 2030. To support the success of this work, FDDC, along with multiple partners, will provide multi-year technical assistance, resources, and funding to build tribal tourism capacity and create new tourism assets.

And now, our conversation with Charlene. Hi Charlene, thank you for joining us today.

[00:02:40] Charlene Virgilio: Thanks so much, Eric. I’m happy to be here.

[00:02:44] Eric Miller: Can you describe your role concerning Indigenous tourism efforts in Maine?

[00:02:49] Charlene Virgilio: Sure. Thank you for inviting me. I’m currently the Executive Director at Four Directions Development Corporation, which is a Native American community development financial institution.

So we have a unique role in this initiative. We started on this journey several years back. We did some work with the tribal leaders, and also through a survey, to understand what were some of their economic needs and trusts. And through that data collection effort and through those interviews, we learned that there was a lot of interest in the tribes to work together on some different economic initiatives or some other related industry work, whether it’s forestry, et cetera.

But the one that came up was tourism. Once we learned there was an interest in working collaboratively across the tribes for tourism, we started to look at what we could do to provide resources, funding, to help the tribes develop a tourism initiative. So as a Native CDFI, we were able to secure funding through the American Indian Native programs.

 And we’re able to get support from the tribes on securing that grant and that started us on our journey, and we were able to secure over 500,000 to start the initiative, which really provided a lot of support. for the tribes to build capacity and leadership development around the initiative.

Because what we found is although there’s a robust tourism industry in the state of Maine, we really are not participating in the industry. So our unique role is really about bringing those programs and resources to the tribes that they really are leading the effort. So they are looking at what they want to develop for tourism assets.

that are important to their tribal communities. We help bring them all the support they need to move any kind of activity forward in this space for them to help them. But it really is a tribally led initiative and we support them with programs and resources.

[00:05:08] Eric Miller: Congratulations on getting it off the ground and acquiring, um, so much funding to support those efforts.

What are some of the unique opportunities and perspectives that Indigenous-led tourism can offer?

[00:05:22] Charlene Virgilio: Yeah, there’s a lot to talk about here as well. But I want to also say that when we were talking about what we learned through these surveys, We were at a tribal leadership forum being sponsored by Heather Johnson out of the Department of Economic and Community Development at the state of Maine, and they were very interested in learning what the tourism initiative would be all about.

So in addition to the support that we received through our federal grant for the ANA grant, we were also able to secure almost 500, 000 from the state of Maine as well. They were in the meeting room when we talked about this initiative initially. And they learned about this interest, so actually the state of Maine sponsored me to go to an American Indian and Native American Tourism Association conference, which is, you know, it’s known as IANTA, and they are really the go to organization to really help tribal nations understand what is the tourism industry for Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Alaskans all about.

And so from that conference, I brought back a wealth of information. What was cultural tourism all about? And I think one of the unique opportunities is that there’s really, when you look at tourism now, it’s about cultural heritage, tourism, and there, I can’t think of any way to have it better aligned with the tribes because of our cultural values and what’s important to us.

And so from the standpoint of the unique opportunities, I really think that it aligns very well with our cultural values. And I think one of the things that I learned was that it was all about being authentic and being able to describe your tribe and your history through your own voice and owning the story.

And I think for Indigenous, communities, that’s really important that we really are the voice and that we can share our cultural heritage authentically and more genuinely. So I think that’s a really unique opportunity for us. And secondly, I think there’s not really a high level of awareness of the tribes in Maine.

And so I think that as we have embarked on this journey, It really helps us to raise awareness and help people understand how to approach our communities and how to learn more. And there really hasn’t been a lot of awareness around that. So I think that’s another unique opportunity we have.

[00:08:03] Eric Miller: Yeah. How does tourism play a role in preserving as well as spreading the understanding to many of the people who are both tribal members as well as visitors when it comes to preserving Wabanaki cultural heritage?

[00:08:19] Charlene Virgilio: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of great benefits from Indigenous tourism because one of the things that I learned when I was out in Oklahoma at this first conference was we visited a number of the tourism events and assets that they had in place. And one of the places I visited was a Native American welcome center.

And I thought, wouldn’t that be awesome if we had such a thing in Maine? And so that’s one thing. It’s still a dream that, wow, could we have a welcome center? And there is a welcome center being developed up at the Katahdin region, but we’d love to see one even as you enter the state and to really understand that you have all these opportunities to learn about our people.

What I saw was amazing. I saw youth involved, and when I toured one of the museums, I could just remember the mental image of a younger individual giving me the tour of the museum and telling their story about their people and their history, and just the beaming pride that I saw on their face as they described their history.

So from that perspective, it really helps youth be engaged you And I think that it helps to have them be more ingrained in their culture, even over and above what they may be now, to share their story. And to see that there’s opportunities to stay within community because there’s jobs and there’s new economic development activity that they can participate in, which helps them to preserve their language and their culture and keeping them engaged to those kind of activities.

The other things that I saw were demonstrations of crafts or traditional practices for how, for their artwork. And even just the structures themselves, the buildings with the cultural appointments in their buildings and museums and the cultural foods was amazing. And I thought it would be so wonderful if we were able to do that same thing in Maine.

And there’s very limited opportunities to experience our traditional foods and or experience our traditional ways of making baskets, et cetera. You know, over and above what are some of the existing assets we have, like the annual December Basket Makers event at UMaine. So this is going to provide, I think, more opportunities for us to be engaged with our culture, share it, and keep our youth engaged.

Involved in it. I want to share one quick story about visitors I think one thing that doesn’t happen today is it’s not like you can go to a website And say, well, who are the tribes of Maine and what do they do? I mean, there’s really not a forum. And so I think sometimes visitors are a little apprehensive to approach, you know, a tribal community or understand what’s proper, what’s not.

And I think this will help increase awareness and help them understand how to engage with the tribes. So I think from a tribal visitor perspective, it’s going to be really positive as well.

[00:11:22] Eric Miller: Yeah, that’s great. And as you’ve seen, almost a model of where you can go as you’re on that visit in Western states and where you are now is encouraging.

And, uh, see youth so energized about it as well, carrying momentum of cultural tradition and having that physical venue to provide the stage for a dialogue and comfort of sharing stories is really cool. At the same time, what are some of the challenges that indigenous tourism initiatives in Maine have faced?

[00:11:51] Charlene Virgilio: I would say in general, our tribal communities often have bandwidth and capacity constraints. And so I think our organization is a Native American certified CDFI. We are able to bring in resources to support our tribes in ways that maybe some other communities do not have. We’re the only Native American CDFI in New England.

So we serve the tribes in Maine. But there’s many other tribal communities around New England that don’t have access to these kind of resources. So one of the challenges is, even one of the first grants I mentioned, the ANA grant is extremely complex, compliance heavy, and so by consolidating those requirements on behalf of all the communities into one grant, we can absorb some of that administrative burden so that they can really concentrate on what do they want the tourism industry to look like for the tribes in Maine.

So I think some, we are able to support some of those challenges and also just from a funding standpoint, it’s one of the most difficult grants to get it. We didn’t get it the first time we applied, but we did get it the second time. And I think that has been helpful because we’ve been able. to through a central point kind of get more funding and resources that we can then give to the tribes to support their development activity.

But it really is bandwidth, it’s funding, and I think also we’re helping with some of the coordination of activities. You know, bringing stakeholders in. We had an industry summit just for tourism last year at Bar Harbor. We had more than 75 people attend from all different parts of the tourism industry, national parks, guide services, main office of tourism.

It was a really energizing time and everybody who left that summit was so motivated and excited about what’s happening. And I think often We don’t always see that excitement and enthusiasm. And so I think that was really encouraging to the team leaders to see that there’s a lot of interest in it. So I think that’s been some of the things that we’ve been able to help overcome and address.

And right now we’re working on bringing stakeholders together. We have six sessions with stakeholders to help them understand what we’re trying to do and what we’re working on. But it’s also helping to communicate and with the awareness. That’s really often difficult when you have constrained resources.

[00:14:33] Eric Miller: God, people have so many things going on in their lives and penetrating that like bubble around folks to spread the word is hard, but it’s very interesting to me how you all saw this need and Took the bandwidth capacity issue and brought it to all right Let’s consolidate our efforts and what we into an organization that’s able to then it goes right into the mission of four directions I think from what I understand that is as you’re able to take the technical lead and Direct the resources and how it sets come to fruition is really amazing And it’s also a nice segue to the next question is how indigenous tourism.

Sorry, what were you gonna say?

[00:15:16] Charlene Virgilio: No, I was just going to say, Eric, because while that was one of the first things we learned when we did the interviews at the very beginning of the process was that technical assistance, business development services were really critical. So that is why we tried to focus on getting that support because it really is led by them.

And we help them with not having to worry about all those other things that need to be in place to help them be successful. I think the other thing I’d just like to comment on is, again, with the bandwidth, we were able to support a program manager here, Amanda Davis, who will be leading the initiative to support and guide the team to bring these resources to them.

Um, we’re also able to secure an economic recovery for fellow in partnership with EDA to win. who is going to be supporting the tribes on helping to develop tourism assets. So we have a pretty significant goal to increase our tourism assets by involving new native owned businesses to support the tourism industry.

So those are the things that are also shared across the tribe to help them develop their tourism businesses.

[00:16:31] Eric Miller: And you’ve been touching on this already, but I’d also like to know in addition to how Indigenous tourism benefits Wabanaki communities economically, socially, and culturally in Maine, how does tourism also fit into Four Direction’s other development goals for Native communities around Maine?

[00:16:47] Charlene Virgilio: Yeah, that’s a great question. One of the things that we do is we always try and embrace what our leaders say they need and want. And so one of the things that’s critically important as you focus on tourism is what do the communities want? So this past summer, we went to every community and we were able to do a survey and say, what is it that you’d like to see?

Or what do you think tourism can do for your communities? And what was really interesting was that more than 83 percent of the 192 people that responded indicated they strongly believed that it would bring additional economic activity to help them do more in their communities. They also felt that the benefits would have a positive impact on their communities.

And I’d say this positive feedback for the communities was really important for us to hear because we need to make sure that as we’re proceeding we’re doing things that the community would like. But that was also tempered by concerns about the impact on natural resources and also the need to protect sacred practices and sacred sites.

So, again, that’s something that is a very strong concern across all tourism initiatives in the United States. So that is something we raised, you know, very strongly as well. But they all did feel that it would have a very positive impact both on their community and economically and socially. This is important to us because one of the things that we’ve realized through some of the interactions and data gathering that we’ve done.

Is that when you start looking at the business development space and the technical assistance as we do these projects, we’re transferring capacity. So we’re helping them so that each leader from each tribe got a certificate in tourism from George Washington University. We also have a new program coming out on Train the Trainers to help them understand how to build a tourism business.

So that is another skill that we’re transferring. So for us, when you look at our mission is to really improve the social and economic conditions of the tribes. This is how it fits, that we are creating an environment that’s going to be conducive to successful and sustainable economic development activity.

But we also realized, you know, I mentioned in the very first part, we didn’t succeed in the first A& A grant because it was really quite broad. So the second time we went in, we said, okay, let’s streamline this because one of the things we wanted to do is also have small business development as part of the grant.

And so what we did the second time, we said, let’s focus on creating a strategy they can all adopt. And then while that was happening, we’ve now stood up a small business program, and we’ve deployed two native entrepreneur centers, and we’re working on building this train the trainer community. But we now have funding to help support small business development that’ll directly relate back to the tourism needs.

Because these kind of resources are important. So for the first time ever, we have Native Entrepreneur Centers in two of our communities. And what we are focusing now is building workshops on how to help them develop small businesses if they want to participate in the space. They could also do many other small businesses.

But we felt that if we didn’t also have these other resources available for them, we felt it was an important ingredient to build up the tourism as well, in addition to any other small businesses they might want to build.

[00:20:27] Eric Miller: Yeah, if you don’t mind indulging me, I’m curious if you happen to remember off the top of your head, some of these businesses that are coming up and opening.

[00:20:35] Charlene Virgilio: Yeah, so there’s a lot of interest. In the tribal communities for hotel development, and so one of the things that we did with some other funding that we received because we heard about this interest in business development services is we’ve done feasibility studies in three different locations to see if they would be successful sites for hotel development.

There’s also been an interest in restaurants that will serve traditional foods, traditional menus. There’s also been an interest in a number of other areas. One of them is, in some cases, we have museums that don’t have dedicated spaces. So now they’re looking at, well, how can I take all of these cultural artifacts that I have and now create a museum so that if people come to my community.

There’s a dedicated space for viewing some of our historical artifacts. Another thing that we’ve heard, you know, maybe one that’s a little bit neat, but our Passamaquoddy tribal members are on Passamaquoddy Bay and there’s been an interest in having whale watching kind of tour because they know the land, they know the waters, and so there’s been those kind of development interests as well.

[00:21:50] Eric Miller: Very cool. Very thorough. So many steps involved to navigate, not just from the grant process, but the feasibility studies, the, just everything that you’ve mentioned here is an incredible feat to get to this point. We’re really excited to observe how it goes. Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you would like to elaborate on more?

Or if there’s something you’d like to plug, uh, I will say before you start that we will include a link to the Four Directions website and any other links or reports that you’d like us to.

[00:22:21] Charlene Virgilio: Yeah, we set out on this journey, and we realized there’s an industry that we really are participating in that we have so much to share from a cultural heritage perspective, and we didn’t realize how much interest there was from so many stakeholders that was all very encouraging.

So our overall goal is to build a robust tourism industry for the Wabanaki communities by 2030. And you just articulated it very well, Eric. There are so many steps and so many pieces that come together. It takes a long time to develop tourism, especially in the tribal communities. That was another thing that I learned.

In some cases, it took seven to eight years. And so for us, we didn’t want anyone to think, oh, we can get this done in, you know, 24 months or less. It does take a lot of resources and a lot of coordination of activities and initiatives and funding. So that’s our overall goal, is that by 2030, we will have a robust Wabanaki tourism industry.

And so that is what we’re looking for this year under Armando’s leadership. We will hope to have a strategy as we try to then go back and adopt it in their own communities because we’re really just about an umbrella, you know, bringing overarching support, but they all really will have their own individual economic development activity as they continue on this journey and preserve their culture.

As we move into this space. And hopefully stimulate a lot of interest for our youth and giving them opportunities for long term careers and jobs within communities so we don’t lose our youth.

[00:24:08] Eric Miller: Well, it seems like there’s quite a bit of momentum already, and it is six years till 2030, so I am very much looking forward to stopping by, uh, the restaurants that pop up in the future, and I just wanted to say thank you very much for taking time to talk to us and describe the Indigenous tourism initiatives in Maine as it currently stands, as well as the goals of the future.

It’s been very enlightening. Thank you.

[00:24:36] Charlene Virgilio: Thank you for the opportunity. Great to talk with you today.

[00:24:40] Eric Miller: That was Charlene Virgilio on Maine’s Indigenous tourism initiatives. Now, on to more information on today’s panelists.

Tracy Michaud is an assistant professor and chair of the Tourism and Hospitality program at the University of Southern Maine. As an applied anthropologist, she focuses her teaching and research on sustainable rural tourism management in Maine and the North Atlantic. She is also a coauthor of the article titled “The Role of Aquaturism in Sustaining Maine’s Working Waterfronts” in Maine Policy Review, Volume 32, Issue 2 of Our Shared Ocean.

Their research article uses interviews with both producers and consumers to understand the value that aquaturism can generate for the Maine fishing industry. They find that with a design that incorporates participation, people, product, and place, the fishing industry and its partners can engage visitors in memorable experiences that could transform them into loyal consumers of Maine fishery products.

Steve Lyons is director of the Maine Office of Tourism, where 20 years. Before taking over as director in 2017, Lyons was the director of marketing and played a critical role in developing a tourism marketing strategy for the state. He is also the author of the article titled, “Coastal Tourism in Maine”, a commentary in Maine Policy Review, Volume 32, Issue 2, Our Shared Ocean. This commentary describes the economic impact of tourism on Maine’s coastal regions.

Rauni Kew manages PR and Green Programs for Maine’s Inn by the Sea. The Inn has accrued a variety of sustainability related certifications over the years, to name a few. The Silver Level of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, also known as LEED certification.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Leader certification, a legislative sentiment as an environmental leader, and was selected Preferred Hotel Group’s Sustainability Hotel of the Year in 2014. Kew served on the Maine Tourism Commission as chair of the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau and on the University of Southern Maine Hospitality Schools Advisory Committee since the school’s inception.

She frequently has published articles on sustainability, hospitality, and industry journals as well. Maine’s tourism industry boasts a rich heritage dating back nearly 200 years, generating a significant economic impact of 15 billion dollars in 2022 alone. This figure encompasses not just visitor spending on lodging, food, and activities, but also the ripple effects of that spending throughout the state’s economy.

The coast is a major draw, with Acadia National Park attracting over 3.9 million visitors, and state parks welcoming over 2 million in 2022. From boat tours and fishing guides to state parks and ferry services, the coast caters to a variety of interests. Lobster shacks, fresh seafood, and the very fishermen who bring in the bounty all play a role in this coastal tourism experience.

Opportunities for Maine to enhance their aquaturism experience include establishing a set time for visitor activities, extending culinary trails to other fisheries, developing a cooperative infrastructure, incorporating tours as part of special events, and creating shore excursions for cruise ship passengers.

While the exact economic impact of the coast is hard to measure, it’s clear that Maine’s beautiful coastline is a cornerstone of the state’s economic success. An aspect of keeping Maine’s tourism industry alive is the various sustainability efforts in place to make Maine’s tourism as green as possible.

Among these efforts are sustainability hotels. The DEP awards environmental leader certification to lodging businesses that have implemented initiatives such as biodegradable cleaning supplies or placing recycling bins in guest rooms in common areas. Businesses earn points by increasing the number of these sustainability practices that save money and reduce environmental impact, and are further incentivized to participate.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection also boasts that these initiatives also attract customers. Since much of Maine’s tourist draw is its wild outdoor spaces, there is a growing demand for preservation and sustainability to be at the heart of the tourism industry. By connecting and educating visitors about the importance of environmental protection, people will be drawn back again and again by their deeper appreciation of all that Maine’s nature has to offer.

Hello everyone, thank you so much for joining us today. What is the most significant and unexpected trend you’ve observed in Maine’s tourism and hospitality industry in the past few years? Tracy, let’s start with you.

[00:29:57] Tracy Michaud: Thanks, Eric. Happy to be here. I would say that people after the pandemic, tending to want to stay longer, spend more for memorable experiences and that quest to be transformed through travel, to learn something, to feel connected seems to be an important aspect that’s growing and actually plays to a lot of main strengths.

So that’s a trend that I’ve seen and I know some of the research has shown as well.

[00:30:26] Eric Miller: It’s amazing how travel is such ingrained into our everyday activities or, or thinking about an upcoming trip and then COVID-19 taking away that routine of traveling or thinking about and planning a trip. You know, there’s so many uncertainties there.

Rauni, from a hotel perspective, what are some of the trends that you have noticed?

[00:30:48] Rauni Kew: Well, Tracy mentioned COVID and definitely there has been a shift since COVID and one of the things that we’ve noticed the most is people’s desire to be outside all the time, um, whether it’s eating, um, our fire tables in the winter are constantly being used for people to have cocktails, but also eating outside.

We have a seafood festival in the middle of the winter, and it’s just great to see people in a snowstorm eating at an outdoor grill. People just love to be outside, so much so, in fact, that we’ve actually added another small outdoor restaurant because it was so popular. It isn’t just eating and dining and being outside.

It’s also getting out into nature. And I, I do the beach ecology walks at the inn and I have seen an enormous rise in interest in educational programming around the environment and being outside.

[00:31:39] Eric Miller: That’s so interesting, the increase in outdoor activities and educational activities, how you’ve, that you’ve noticed that.

Mainers are hardy, and I know not, obviously, a lot of people from out of state visit Maine to, uh, recreate and vacation, but Mainers are hardy, and they ratchet up that hardiness even more. Steve, what are some tourism and hospitality trends that you’ve noticed that have maybe surprised you, or seem to be less recognized in popular discourse?

[00:32:07] Steve Lyons: Well, I guess I would agree with what Tracy and Rauni both said, I mean, I, we’ve seen a longer length of stay for our visitors. If you look at our research, you know, a few years ago, the average length of stay was about three days. Now the average length is closer to five days. So we are seeing that in our research with what Rauni pointed out, there are a lot of people going to the out of doors.

The other trend that’s become really, that we’re seeing nationwide and here in Maine is travel with a purpose. You know, people are more interested now in supporting some kind of a cause or visiting. Organizations that are giving back somehow, whether it’s to the environment or social causes or whatever it might be, people really want to come and make a connection and help and leave a place in better and a better position than when they arrived and we’re seeing that as a big trend.

Um, over the last few years, I’d also say that another piece of that, you know, another piece, which isn’t necessarily related to that directly, but the other piece that we’re really seeing a heavy increase in is, you know, everyone’s looking for that off the beaten path place that no one’s ever been before.

I mean, Rauni mentioned it because everyone wants to be outside because what everybody wants to do is find the place that nobody has been to. So they can be the first to put it on their social media channel to let everyone know, Hey, this is where I was. And this is the great experience I had. You know, and it’s almost like bragging rights to some degree.

[00:33:29] Tracy Michaud: Yeah, if I can jump back in on this, because I love what you said, Rauni, about people wanting to be outdoors. It’s like we’ve transformed what we realize we can do, especially in the winter. Nobody would have thought before COVID you could have a very nice meal outside in the middle of winter. My daughter is a surfer and the amount of surfers that are out during the winter now and people recreating on the waterfront going in the water during wintertime has increased exponentially to the point that I’m incorporating that into some new studies that I’m doing looking at cold water destinations and the increase in recreation and surfing and different things that are happening there, because it does play into waterfront usage and that’s changed pretty significantly. And COVID for sure kind of blew open our minds on what was possible, what we could handle.

[00:34:29] Eric Miller: It’s amazing to me how these forces of technological innovation allowing for, you know, heat lamps and bringing people to stay in the outdoors longer and then social media coming in as well to either incentivize or energize people to find these lesser-known places. To a place where Maine has long been a place to relax, recreate, explore, and it’s been that way for over a hundred years.

Steve, how has the Maine brand as a tourist destination evolved to today? And how does the Maine Office of Tourism plan to nurture and sustain the core elements of the state brand environmentally and economically?

[00:35:15] Steve Lyons: You know, I guess the way I’d answer that is to say, I’m not sure the brand itself has changed that much over the years, but how we present it and how we market it, ah, I mean, the brand itself has always kind of been centered around the beauty of our natural resources, the people that make up the communities and make up the state and the business owners, as many, many small business owners that run Um, properties and restaurants and, you know, retail shop.

That’s a really important piece of the overall experience someone can have when they’re coming here for the state. There’s also sort of this underlying piece that’s related to arts and culture. I mean, a lot of the people discovered Maine back in the mid-1800s or whatever, because artists came here first.

And then they started painting these beautiful scenery, the scenic shots of the main, they brought it back to the cities, they sold them in the galleries or whatever it was and people started coming up and that’s when you started getting the Rockefellers and all these other folks coming up and building their second homes up here and their places to get away for a while.

We’re looking at all of that and what’s really important when you start talking about all these things, we start talking about the brand and where we’re going and what we’re doing. You also have to look at sort of the trends of the past and see where you’ve been. We have a destination management plan that we’ve been working on for the last year, year and a half or so, and the really intended outcome for that program is to promote tourism that ultimately improves the quality of life for the people of Maine, you know, the small business owners here in the state, it also helps to make sure that The people that are coming, that we welcome everyone.

We want to be sure that we have a diverse audience and we’re attracting diverse clientele, because I mean, the population of the nation is really changing a lot, and so we have to make sure that. We are in alignment with the population changes so that as we’re attracting people to come to the state, we’re speaking to them in the right manner.

Cause you talk to different audiences differently and you want to make sure that you’re not offending somebody. You want to make sure that you’re being welcoming to everybody. And so that’s really important. So it’s kind of a balance of the economy, a balance of the natural resources and making Maine that much more of an interesting place to be, to come and visit.

[00:37:35] Eric Miller: Yeah. And I’m from the Midwest originally, and I’m very grateful to have spent a number of years living in Maine. And anytime I tell anyone from out of state that I spent so much time in Maine, they’re jealous and look of awe that I got to spend so much time here. Rauni, how do you use the main brand in your day-to-day operations, or how do you view it in the context of your professional life?

[00:38:01] Rauni Kew: So, I’m just gonna go back for one second to all of the surveys that have been done, because there have been just tons of surveys done in the last couple of years, and they’ve, they’ve really been unified in one message. And the message is threefold. The message is one that travelers are very concerned about their negative impacts on communities as well as the environment.

Two, they expect tourism to step up and take care of the places that they love to visit. And three, they want to know what it is that we’re doing around stewardship, sustainability, and taking care of those places. And not only that, they want to be inspired by whatever it is that we’re doing and they want to go on that journey with us.

I’m in the hospitality industry and I really think for the survival of our industry, we need to listen to what travelers are telling us over and over and over again. The Worldwide Tourism Council has also come out with a nature-based survey that has really been very insightful and it really talks about the fact that 50 percent of tourism Really is based around nature, and that about 80 percent of tourism is somehow connected to nature.

So we in Maine are very privileged to be in this fabulous state and at the end for the last 20 years, we’ve been traveling a green path and we’ve kind of done it in two different ways. One is really not that interesting to guests in the beginning, and it is all design features, things like air-to-air heat exchangers, solar panels, EV charging, recycled sheetrock walls. I mean, people really don’t care about that kind of thing. The other way we’ve done it is that we have tried to connect the guest to this wonderful, natural, coastal location that we have with programming that’s kind of whimsical, but also educational, and they’re becoming more and more popular.

So, I do something like a beach ecology walk. And that would talk about the rabbit hat that we worked with, with the fish and wildlife and the Crescent Beach State Park to create habitat for an endangered species, the New England Cottontail. We now have a seven year program with them where we are working on trying to get rid of or push back a terrible invasive that impacts healthy ecosystems on the coast of Maine, the Japanese Knotweed. And what we do is we bring in a herd of goats, we monitor the goats, we take care of the goats, we water the goats. It’s highly entertaining for our guests. We bring in baby goats for managers cocktail parties, the guests play with the goats, they love the goats, they have fun with the goats, and it opens up the conversation about the importance of rewilding all around the world, the importance of native plants versus invasive plants, and we’re able to walk people through this. So we’re touching on that memorable, inspirational, educational kind of experience that really connects people to Maine. We’ve had a Bugs Life program for kids, kids part arts and crafts for 20 years.

It’s part arts and crafts, and part educational. Kids dress like bugs and then they learn about local ecosystems from a bug’s vantage point. It’s lots of fun, again memorable, and connects them to the place. So that’s the kind of programming we do and suddenly Guests are more interested in the pieces that you wouldn’t expect them to be in.

Now they care about dual flush toilets and recycled sheet rock walls. So the last thing is that part of who we are is we’re part of Beyond Green, which is really a people, planet, profit model, but Is built on the three pillars of sustainable tourism. One of the pillars is support for community. And again, this is something that really engages guests.

Steve touched on it. They love to be part of our books for a booking program, which is buying books for local schools. They love to be part of our educational programs. We’re very dog friendly. So we support the animal refuge league by having a foster dog on site. 176 of our guests have adopted dogs from the inn.

They ask us why do you have dogs at the inn? And it’s because we’re a green hotel that supports community not for profits. And so again, the dogs are wonderful ambassadors, as are the bunny rabbits, as are the goats, to having these educational conversations and really connecting people to our natural environment with fun.

[00:42:26] Eric Miller: With fun. So when talking to a manor that’s a casual observer of what’s going on as the seasons change and the influx of tourists come, They often lament about this influx of people who are in their areas and whatnot. They can’t drive through Bar Harbor if they want to go. The survey and the transformation of what tourists hope to get out of their experience seems counter to what that looks like.

Casual Mainer thinks of they think of maybe the tourists, you know, they’re here to consume and Trump all over the place or whatever, but it’s amazing and interesting to me that the attitude of Maine and making sure that the place stays pristine and conserve and preserve these places, Tracy, from your academic perspective, and Rauni touched on some of the survey findings. What do you have to say about the future of the brand of.

[00:43:29] Tracy Michaud: Yeah, I think that kind of dichotomy that you’re talking about with travelers coming and there’s a little bit of inconveniences sometimes in summer when there’s a lot of people hard to find parking in downtown Portland or get into your favorite restaurant, but that the traveler, especially the ones coming into Maine seem to have more of a, an ethic of coming here because we are Still a working waterfront.

It’s not just tourist attractions down there But there are people that have been working for generations in some of our traditional industries like fishing and whatnot and as Rauni’s mentioned a genuine care for the place and wanting their Footprint to be positive and it’s up to us to give them the ways to do that more and more And that then in fact Keeps attracting the, you know, the type of traveler that we want.

And so, interestingly enough, I teach a sustainable tourism development class, so students that are going into the industry to help them think about the community impact, how do you maximize local dollars, maintain those things that are important to People that live here, but also are going to be attractive to tourists and whatnot.

And I run a survey with my students taking these classes for about 10 years now about the thing you’re talking about. What does it feel like as someone living here and dealing with tourists coming in? And what’s kind of a tourist perspective and how do you kind of match that and interestingly enough this younger generation I’d say coming through college and over these last number of years seem to kind of get the balance that yeah, we have a lot of tourists that can be inconvenient sometimes.

But we do understand that they bring really important money into our economy that allows us to have a quality of life that we wouldn’t have. We wouldn’t be able to go to those restaurants in the winter without the tourist dollars in the summer. Many of our trail systems and other things that we enjoy partly are getting funded through money coming in through tourist dollars.

And so, You know, there is I think overall in the state We’ve also been doing tourism here for quite a long time as steve mentioned You know a couple hundred years that it’s an important part of the economy. There’s trade offs. There’s some challenges but it’s also There’s successes and it’s all about how do we maintain that balance and people seem to understand that that’s really important.

Another piece that I had mentioned was a working waterfront. Our Maine brand is really built on authenticity. When people come here, yes, we have places that cater to tourists, gift shops that primarily tourists will shop at. Many of our restaurants are serving visitors to Maine in the summers, but it’s a place that people are still doing jobs they’ve done for generations.

When you come into the Old Port of Portland, there are businesses, law firms, companies, as well as fishermen, and people doing real work, and real people, quote unquote real people, versus Other types of waterfronts that are really only catering to tourists. There are really not many other types of industries and jobs.

And I think that’s pervasive through Maine. And really our strength is that more and more people want an authentic experience. They want to feel like they’re part of something new and real. And when they come to our waterfront, it’s not just a show for them, but they can actually engage with people that are.

Bringing in the fish that they are going to then eat that afternoon. And as Steve said, we are fortunate and it’s good management practices that have allowed us to maintain some of that policies that have kept the waterfront working in industries, not just tourism. That happened decades ago. And now we understand the real important impact that has had.

And it’s a big part of why people come here they want to see that they want to be engaged in a real way.

[00:47:54] Eric Miller: So you touch on this working waterfront concept in your Maine Policy Review article in framing it as part of the experience economy, which is from the agribusiness did it to how these working waterfronts, could you elaborate on how some of the successes they found?

What are some of the specific challenges that these working waterfronts are having while they’re courting tourists? And does it seem to be a reliable thing to keep revenue coming in?

[00:48:19] Tracy Michaud: Yeah, our first Maine Policy Review article, we’ve done a couple of them. I’m working with a really great graduate student, Caroline Paras who is doing a PhD now on agritourism and aquaturism in the state of Maine, and really interested in how experiences can help not just give a visitor to Maine an enjoyable experience, but how does that translate then into them buying the local product when they’re here, but also when they go home blueberries, for instance, we have frozen blueberries all over the world in grocery stores, will they be more likely to buy them once they’ve had an experience in Maine and come to the wild blueberry festival or not, and the importance of in aquatourism.

So. Fishermen, people that are lobstering, oyster farmers, for instance, when they can have an engaging activity where people can come and learn about what they’re doing and then buy it right there, does that then help the broader industry, even those that aren’t engaged in this type of activity? And the work is showing that yes, it does.

It’s a positive effect, not just for those people that are engaged in that on the waterfront, but there’s this bigger effect that helps everybody because learning about the sustainability practice of the lobster industry, learning about how oysters can be used. Filter the water and that’s good, you know, good for everyone and being able to take a kayak out and eat that oyster right there while you’re sitting in the water.

Those are those memorable experiences that then once they go home or, you know, maybe like, do we order something special from Maine for a birthday, even though I’m in the Midwest, they’re going to be more likely to do that. So there are ways that in the past, I think there’s. Then this dichotomy between tourism versus other industries on the working waterfront and the work that we tried to do was show there’s, it’s actually a symbiosis and our tourism really values that the working part of that.

And so how do we recognize that and support to the industries together? Cause we really need us all to be successful, uh, to maintain our main brand going forward. And aquatourism, agritourism can play a part of that. In terms of creating a reliable source of revenue for communities, we know that in the research we’ve done, those people and small businesses that engage in aquatourism, they maybe bring visitors out to catch a lobster and then cook it and eat it.

Or they partner with a kayak company to bring their visitors out to see the oyster farm. That is pretty significant revenue and sometimes even brings in more than the act of fishing itself. But we also know that not everyone wants to do that or likes to do that. And what we’re Seeing as not everyone needs to do that because there’s such a long term positive benefit from a few people doing that, that it benefits everyone.

And that positive experience that one person has on that lobster boat is going to be helpful for everyone. Everybody out there and getting that consumer to really connect and buy over the years. That’s what it’s looking like in our research as we move forward. So I do think that there is reliable revenue that is coming directly as well as indirectly from tourism and that education and as people want to engage more, they want those types of experiences.

And there’s other ways too through events. So one of the issues we know is just having lots of people around all the time, getting in the way of people that are working on the waterfront, not being able to get trucks in and out and whatnot, and providing structured events that don’t have to be every day but a few times a day can help.

With that as well, the Portland Walk the Working Waterfront, I think, is a wonderful event that gets people into areas that are, I would say, off limits or dangerous normally that you don’t want visitors just wandering around that are interesting. Fish processing and things like that and people want to know about that and so special events that allow you to sort of focus the time when tourists can come in and get a good experience are really important.

Lobster festival, clam festival, we have plenty of festivals with boats on our coastal areas. All of these things I think are strategies to help kind of manage that, to educate people, give them that experience, but kind of Manage the amounts of people on waterfronts. And then I think to Rauni’s point about sustainability, people are interested in learning about things like how does the solar panel work?

What does wind power do or mean? And it could be the good and bad of that. Like having a real conversation about what the impacts of these industries are. I work in Iceland. As well, and they have geothermal energy that powers the very green energy that powers most of that country and most of these power plants, which kind of look at them, they’re a little bit ugly there on the landscape, but most of these power plants have created museums, tours, and are becoming an attraction in and of itself.

So people can go and learn about that really interesting, cool industry and the way that they have been able to create green electricity on this volcanic island. And so I think we can start thinking in that way, too, of offering tours, interpretation, events. Around these types of things like power generation that would not have seemed like it would have been the biggest tourist attraction in the past.

[00:54:32] Eric Miller: Yeah, it’s really cool to see how this natural curiosity that humans have is now being tapped into as demand for tourism. And I will say it, you mentioned the indirect impact. Benefits, uh, my mother in Wisconsin, anytime she sees Maine blueberries in the frozen aisle, she goes nuts and buys them. So that’s another data point, verifying your findings.

Um, Steve, how has the Maine office of tourism found that this increased demand for an educational or immersive experience has influenced like the marketing or interaction with businesses?

[00:55:08] Steve Lyons: Well, I mean, I think, you know, obviously, as I pointed out in the article that I wrote, the working waterfront is very important to the overall experience that someone has when they come to the state.

The vast majority of people coming here, three quarters of the people coming here are going to the coast as their primary destination. So it’s important for us to Keep that in mind as we’re thinking about our promotion. I mean, we have to promote the entire state and we do do that so that it’s not just focusing on one area or another.

All of this kind of ties back to how to, you know, as we move forward with our destination management plan here, how to, how can we promote the state, but also support these resources like Okay. The vast majority of people that are coming to Maine, or a large percentage of them coming to Maine, are eating their seafood.

You know, coming here for seafood, so we want to make sure that, so it’s really important that the working waterfronts are maintained, and that they continue to work the way they always have. Also, aesthetically, it’s just nice to go to walk down a pier in a small town somewhere, and see all these lobster traps stacked up, and just, Get that feeling like, wow, this is really traditional.

This is really authentic because authenticity, as Tracy pointed out, and traditions are an important aspect of what we’re trying to preserve here in the state of Maine. You know, you think about whether it’s the fishermen who are doing the lobster fishering or the new oyster farmers that are doing that, but we also want to make sure that we’re supporting all the agricultural farmers in the state as well.

And so all these small businesses that are buying from the local farmers, the breweries that are growing their hops locally, you know, all these things are so important to the overall experience and feeling you have when you come to a state like Maine, there’s not much here that is manmade per se, or the major attraction isn’t necessarily the manmade piece.

It’s the natural components of what we have to offer. So as we think about our destination management plan, the other thing we’re thinking about is how do you keep these pristine places pristine. And so as we think about it. Our marketing efforts, we have to think about it from the standpoint of, it’s not just about volume, volume, volume, getting more people and coming here.

It’s how do you get people to come here, stay longer in one place, explore the area, go to the local restaurant that’s buying from the local farmer, go to the local brewery, getting their hops or, you know, from the local farmer, going to the pottery studio that supports the local ceramics person or what have you.

So all of that sort of factors into what we’re trying to look at and hold the holistic experience when someone comes to the state and also looking at once you start promoting something, this has happened to us on occasion where we’ve featured a place that might not have been the most popular place or might’ve been off the beaten path.

And then we did some marketing and we did some, you know, photo shoots there or whatever, and suddenly the place is overrun with people. So. Those are the things that we have to look at and carefully understand how we’re impacting them. We have bought into some data systems that can do a better job tracking individual visitors by, well, not visitors with personal information, but their cell phone tracking is what you can do nowadays.

And there are several services out there that we can see where a cell phone normally lives. So maybe the cell phone normally is in St. Louis or whatever, and now it’s here for a week. So you know that someone’s coming here and spending time when that phone normally is in St. Louis all the time. And you can sort of follow that phone, if you will, around the state and see where it’s going.

So that allows us at some level to look at, okay, is there a trailhead that’s sort of getting, you know, overrun. Suddenly you see a thousand phones that go to this place. And before it might have been a year ago, it might have been a couple hundred or whatever. And so we have these mechanisms that are starting to come out that we can look at and sort of help manage this better so that we’re not continuing to send all the people to this.

One place and it’s getting overpopulated with people. So those are some of the things that we’re working on from our perspective, as we try to maintain the natural resources that we have here in the state and make sure people are responsible and recreating responsibly on the lands here, then making sure they’re not damaging the property.

I mean, Maine, as you probably know, I mean, the vast majority of land in Maine is privately owned, and, but the landowners are nice enough to let us all use it. I think it’s important for us to get that message out there as well, to let people know that, hey, this isn’t like out West, where you have a lot of rural land management lands, or national park lands, or national forest lands that are owned by the government.

This is Maine where it’s owned by private people and they’re letting you use this. So be respectful of that. And so that’s the type of messaging we’re trying to get out there as we think about how we continue to market Maine sustainably.

[00:59:53] Tracy Michaud: The cultural piece is really important. That’s something that there’s a lot of good room for growth on.

And, and I think in particular with our Indigenous Peoples, Maine’s first peoples, recognizing them as first peoples and making space for their voice to be part of this development process. And my students have been working for a number of years with Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness. And they’re doing some cultural tourism initiatives in Bangor North.

And so each year we bring students from Portland up there. And it’s a great experience for them to see a different part of Maine, but also to work with another culture, to find ways of how do we respect that voice? How do we get that information out to visitors? And it’s just been, a great learning experience, but also it’s just something that is right to do, I think, for the state of Maine and to bring them more to the forefront.

And people are interested in that and they care about that, how you treat people. And so I think there’s a lot of room for growth around the cultural side and especially with our indigenous peoples, you know, working with them, having them decide what they want to share and how they want to share that.

And those are the types of things that are just going to be a positive benefit for any visitors coming in. One more cultural piece to add into that mix of nature and authenticity and all those things we’ve been talking about.

[01:01:28] Eric Miller: Rauni you’ve talked quite a bit about the ecological environmental programming and engaging people with the landscapes and coastal environments that your hotel is located at.

Speaking from your role at the Inn by the Sea, do you find that more hotels and places where, you know, folks decide to set their bags down and head off into the main wilderness. You find that more like boutique hotels and those immersive experiences have popped up following your lead or is In By The Sea still a unique example of immersing their guests in these experiences?

How does type of establishments live together in the future of Maine tourism.

Ellsworth has made the news about how popular it is or how it’s highly it’s ranked to own one of those types of businesses. How do those

[01:02:31] Rauni Kew: Well, in terms of everything from campgrounds to Airbnbs, right on up to boutique hotels, to Steve’s point, we need to welcome all kinds of people at every level and try and have an experience that they want to have. So, We absolutely coexist. We all work together. We share information. So it’s friendly competition and we’re glad for any type of lodging.

I will say that I would love to see more hotels and more and more hotels are becoming more aware of sustainable operations, but I think we need to really think about moving beyond sustainability to regenerative tourism and Tracy’s and Steve have both touched on it, why not make an experience out of repairing a wetlands?

Why not make an experience out of protecting an endangered species? We can all get involved with preserving and protecting this incredible Maine environment for future generations. And we can still make money, still have tourism, having an inspirational experience here. So I would love to see more people get involved, looking around, thinking Who can I collaborate with?

Is there a state park or a city park that I can collaborate with around preserving and protecting something? Can we put in a small pollinator garden in the middle of the city? Is there room for that? Just really think about what you can do to help preserve and repair ecosystems. In one lifetime, my lifetime, we have gone from 66 percent of the globe being wilderness.

To 18 or 19 percent of the globe being wilderness. And that includes oceans. That’s frightening. That is not enough wilderness and healthy ecosystems left to really absorb human activity. So I think everything that we can do to rewild a lawn, a park, and work together on doing that, and then making it a guest experience, make it fun.

Be a little creative will benefit all of us. So moving from sustainability into regeneration.

[01:04:39] Eric Miller: I love that. Tracy, do you have anything to add to how businesses may be, and, and Steve, how businesses may be looking to follow Rauni’s lead on regenerative tourism?

[01:04:53] Tracy Michaud: I do think that there is a movement in that direction for lots of reasons.

Well, Rauni said it needs to happen for us to survive in the longterm. But that concept of regeneration with even with communities, so talking about our indigenous partners, part of the experiences we’re talking about is how do you have the tough conversations with people around the bad treatment they have had over the last hundreds of years and not shying away from that.

And being able to make that as a part of an experience and having conversations with communities and people engaged in maybe training tourists, how you can come into a community and not overwhelmed and whatnot. And so I think with businesses and even beyond that concept of regenerative tourism is like that next step.

Another place where it’s really important is that we have a workforce deficit, especially in the tourism industry. Hard to get and retain new employees. I mean this is happening lots of places in lots of industries But in particular ours, we’re finding that’s part of the research that myself and my colleague.

Dr Forrest Ma is starting to undertake is what employees want and need to Come into a place and stay there and More and more we’re hearing they want to work for a place that has a value that they care about. We have had i’ll just say numerous people that have graduated from USM that work for Rauni and are still there And they go there and for big reason being that the sustainability initiatives they care about that They want, want to work for a place that has their same values And so even from a workforce perspective, it’s really important on the employee side that we want to be doing something meaningful as well as the traveler coming in and wanting to know that they’re participating in a positive or meaningful way.

So I do see this as a really important. thing that a lot of businesses are starting to understand if they don’t already understand that and incorporating that into how they run their business, how they treat their employees, work life balance, you know, becoming like a much more important thing and respected, right?

Whereas in the past, maybe not so respected. And then how they treat the environment with the types of products and things they’re putting out. So that is definitely, I think, a path forward for all different aspects of the, the tourism and hospitality industry.

[01:07:32] Eric Miller: Steve has the, and we touched on how there’s been an increase in the tourists interest, visitor interest in how the state of Maine operates and from the working waterfronts to the ecological systems. Has this interest in the environment ethic kind of always been there in the undercurrents and it’s been surging more recently? Or what have you noticed in your time?

[01:07:57] Steve Lyons: I mean, there’s always been a group of people out there that have been concerned about it right, right from the start, but I think more and more people are starting to see various impacts, whether if you look at the climate change and what people think about that and why that’s happening.

I think more and more people are seeing bigger and more impactful events that are happening around them that make them start thinking about, well, maybe we should start thinking a little bit more about how when we travel, paying closer attention to our water usage or our emissions, we are seeing that more than we did several years ago.

I mean, as I pointed out earlier, we’ve been a destination marketing organization for so many years. It wasn’t really until the last year when we embarked on this destination management plan that we started to think about it more holistically. You know, I’m friends with a lot of tourism directors around the country and a lot of them are still destination marketing organizations and they haven’t really started.

They’re still after how can we get more visitors, get more visitors, get more visitors. And while they understand there’s an issue there, sometimes For whatever reason, their industry, their government in that area or whatever, you know, they want the revenue and they want to make sure they’re getting the visitor here.

You know, we’re trying to look at things a little differently. We’re trying to look at like, okay, we want the revenue as well because it helps with all the services that become available for the state and it helps keep small businesses in business. As I said before, that the tourism industry is small business in this state.

I mean, it’s a lot of the mom-and-pop places and it helps people living here to stay here and live here and work here. As we embark on this destination management aspect of things, we’re still new on this. We’re still kind of, you know, dipping our toe in the water a little bit. But we, we understand that we have to start making some changes and make some adjustments so it can be, you know, sustainable.

So we can have sustainable travel moving forward. I mean, that’s why we came up with our stewardship principles, you know, and came up with this plan. Because we can’t wear out, wear out what’s been helping us, you know, sustainable travel. Attract people for years. We have to find a way to maintain those resources, get the people to think about our ethos as a state and what we’re trying to accomplish and how they can be a part of that.

And I think that’s kind of where the changes that I’m starting to see.

[01:10:12] Eric Miller: That’s so fascinating. This theme of balance that’s been coming up repeatedly throughout our conversation has been particularly striking to me among everything you all have been saying. We’re very grateful for you all to join us today.

As we close out, if you could all touch on the, what you see as the future of tourism in Maine, or discuss something that we haven’t touched on yet, we’ll close out with those final remarks. Steve, how about we start right out with you?

[01:10:38] Steve Lyons: So I would say it’s the path we’re starting to follow now. I think we have to look at welcoming everyone and welcoming all, you know, no matter who they are or what their interests are or whatever it is, we want to make sure that we’re welcoming everybody.

And we have to make sure that, uh, in order to do that, I think one of the steps you have to take is we have to get the industry here in the state to the differences between different type groups of people and how they can talk to them in a positive way and work with them and give them experiences that they’re truly looking for.

So I think it’s going to be important for us. To work with some training. We’re already working with our ad agency. We’re going to start some, you know, DEI training here in the not too distant future. We’re talking with other state agencies and other individuals about, you know, Rauni, you might be interested to hear what, you know, we just had a meeting with a gentleman who used to run the green lodging program in the state, a gentleman named Peter Cook.

We’re trying to sort of reinvigorate that a little bit and try to understand so we get people lodging property starting to think about what their impact is based on what people are looking for. So I think the future, I guess, is that tourism has become more personalized. People want what they want, but they also have a broader interest of, you know, Maintaining the environment that we all live in and live and work in or the visiting environment when they’re here.

And so I think we’re going to see more and more people looking at it from that perspective.

[01:12:11] Tracy Michaud: Yeah, I’ll take the higher education lens and I work with the future of Maine tourism every day. Those are our students coming through. And Maine is, is fortunate through hard work and, and just natural resources and whatnot that we have a very high revisit rate.

We’re already getting a lot of visitors and they come back over and over. And so what we’re teaching our students are not just the skills to manage in a hotel or your own tour company or whatnot, but how do you think about the industry so we can continually do it better. Thank you Because if you do it better, then you could make more money with less of an impact.

And how do you think about those big problems that they’re going to be facing with climate change and other things, too? So, I think the future is that. Management perspective that Steve had talked about is how do we think about and understand and problem solve and lead on doing this better because I believe tourism can be a means for a really positive good thing when it’s done well and managed well and sustainably and we try to instill that into the future of tourism and our students.

[01:13:33] Rauni Kew: Well, I really have two thoughts, and they include Steve and Tracy in both. One is the importance of collaboration, as I mentioned earlier. I think we need to collaborate with our communities, our parks, our educators, the Office of Tourism, our various associations, and really work together to try and come regenerative programs.

But I also, on the same vein, believe wholeheartedly in education. And I think education for guests is important. Can be really fun, really inspirational, and a guest who has had a moving moment, maybe it’s because they’ve learned about endangered bunnies and they walk down to the beach and see some New England cottontails on the beach boardwalk and they’re inspired by that.

They would never consider bringing a dog down to the beach then. During nesting season. I think we can really change people’s hearts and minds with a little bit of education. Maybe they go home and take half their lawn and make it meadow. So I really think that we can inspire people with fun and some whimsy and really connect them to the beautiful state of Maine and have them go home and maybe do a little regenerative work at home as well.

[01:14:46] Eric Miller: I love it. Thank you all so much for joining us today and sharing your perspectives on tourism in Maine.

And thank you, listener, for joining us today. My name is Eric Miller, and I’ll see you next time on Maine Policy Matters. Our team comprises Barbara Harrity and Joyce Rumery coeditors of Maine Policy Review. Jonathan Rubin directs the Policy Center. Thanks to faculty associate Kathryn Swacha, professional writing consultant, Maine Policy Matters intern, Nicole LeBlanc, and podcast producer, editor, and writer, Jayson Heim. Thanks to Nathanael Batson for composing our podcast music.

Check out mcslibrary.org to learn more about Margaret Chase Smith, the library and museum, and education and public policy. The Maine Policy Matters website can be found in the description of this episode, along with all materials referenced, a full transcript, and social media links.

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