Changes Coming for Maine Tourism Agency
With a unanimous legislative committee vote and the support of many key members of Maine’s tourism industry, a bill that revamps the state’s tourism office is on its way to enactment.
Two months ago I reported that some members of the Tourism Commission were disgruntled that the Commission was scheduled to be abolished by this legislation, but Carolann Ouelette, Director of the Office of Tourism, rallied her troops, responded to concerns, and successfully supported an amended version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Amy Volk.
That amended version got a unanimous “ought-to-pass” recommendation from the legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee and awaits action in the House and Senate. It’s expected to pass easily and get the Governor’s signature. I have not found anyone in the tourism industry who is not supporting the amended version of the bill.
Here’s how Carolann described the proposal in the original bill. The bill “includes three tourism related parts: repeal of the tourism commission legislation; strengthening tie-in with the industry of development and administration of the strategic plan; and creation of an Office of Marketing within DECD (2 year sunset) that would include monthly meetings of state agency partners’ marketing staff to learn more about marketing efforts and budgets, discuss consistency in message/brand; find efficiencies and make a determination of whether or not this office moving forward makes sense,” she wrote in an emailed message to Tourism Commission members.
“This proposed repeal of the commission and strengthening of the language to connect the industry to the administration and development of the strategic plan provides us with an opportunity to do a number of things: 1) Examine all the overlaps with current boards and initiatives and establish a more efficient mechanism. 2) Allows for flexibility – broader and/or more targeted industry participation depending upon the issue. 3) Show commitment to efficiencies. 4) Frees up staff time (over 400 hours) which could be re-allocated to presenting/working more directly to the industry (regionally, locally, organizationally) which would help to address some identified communication issues,” said Carolann.
It appears that she has retained most of this in the final amended version of the bill. Here are the specifics.
The Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development must, by August 1, 2012, begin convening monthly meetings of the marketing personnel from the following state agencies: Agriculture, Labor, Environmental Protection, Education, Conservation, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and Marine Resources and Transportation, to gather information on marketing efforts, budgets and strategies to determine what efficiencies and streamlining can occur to more effectively market Maine’s products and services. A report on this work must be provided to the legislature next year.
The Office of Tourism will seek direct input and consultation from the tourism industry on marketing and promotional plans and work closely with tourism regions and sectors including, but not limited to, outdoor recreation, lodging, restaurants, large landowners, campgrounds, transportation, retail, cultural, youth camps, motorcoach as well as tourism destination marketing organizations, private businesses, associations, nonprofits and others to collaborate, plan and accomplish the goals of those plans as well as those outlined in the strategy.
The Office will seek tourism industry input in other areas the Commissioner considers appropriate and necessary to ensure the successful implementation of this section. The Office of Tourism must also present a quarterly report to the tourism industry and an annual report to the governor and legislature, summarizing the goals and achievements of the office.
The existing Maine Tourism Commission, a large group of tourism industry representatives, would be abolished, although some of its members will certainly be involved in the new processes described above.
My Thoughts: I didn’t know all those agencies had marketing personnel. Perhaps I’ll attend one of their meetings to see who they are!
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has not had a marketing staff person since Bill Pierce left years ago to accept a position with the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust. So it will be particularly interesting to me to see who attends these meetings from this agency.
In addition to reporting on “goals and achievements,” I would encourage Carolann and others to report on any problems and deficiencies in the state’s tourism program. That would actually be of most value to the governor and legislators. It’s important to know what has been achieved, but it’s very important to know where we’re falling short.
I have a great deal of respect for Carolann Ouelette, and look forward to watching – and reporting – her progress as this reorganization and revitalization of her office and program proceeds.