Will Maine’s Tourism Industry Run out Of Gas?

Posted: 29/04/2008 in Uncategorized
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We make a lot of commotion in the state of Maine over the tourist industry, trying to lure ever more people from away to line our coffers with their pocket change, will this year be the end of the industry? Probably not, but wise business owners will be ahead of the game if they start making changes to cope with our declining economy. One again the dollar has decreased in the world markets making the cost of imports rise. That means everything we get from another country will cost us more. In case you haven’t noticed, even cheap plastic crap from china is beginning to rise in price.

But the big issue concerning Maine is the price of fuel at the pump. It’s funny, but I realized last Friday when I filled my tank that even though I am driving less, it still costs more to feed my car. But you know what? Everybody else is in the same boat in this country. And that’s going to hurt the tourist industry, whether they want to admit it or not. I suspect that one of the declining segments will be the day and weekend trippers from other parts of New England that come here from say, Mass. and NY for a day or two and hit the shopping outlet areas such as Kittery and Freeport.

But on the other hand, we may see more of those people coming for a week at a time for an extended shopping trip. Bad news on that slant is that they will come once, not multiple times. And in the long run will be spending less here in Maine. Overall, I wonder what the tipping point in the rising pump price for gasoline will ultimately be. For some, the increase is merely an inconvenient truth in the economy, but for others, it means an alteration of their lifestyle. The richer you are, the less it hurts your pocket. Which results in a narrowing of the demographics, and thus spending habits. And in turn the offerings we should be providing to the market.

But will Maine make the adjustments in time to avoid damage to the tourist economy? Given the fact that Maine’s political climate swings too far to the left, it is doubtful we will be willing to make the sacrifices needed to enhance this increasingly vital segment of our economy here in Maine. What do I think the actions to be taken should be? Here’s a short list:

  1. Eliminate the tolls on the interstate;

    This will eliminate backups and increased consumption at the busier interchanges, lower the hazardous ozone creating pockets, thereby improving the environment, and allowing people to more easily navigate to their destinations.

  2. Cut the States excise tax in half, or eliminate it entirely.

    According to the State, the tax is currently 47.5 cents per gallon of regular unleaded. That would cut nearly half a buck off of each gallon.

  3. Increase the availability of the public transportation system.

    Maine needs to begin to take a closer look at the bus and rail transportation systems in this state. Increased availability of train travel would be a great boon the industry.

  4. Connect the tourism industry to the transportation industry, and available routes for mass transit.

    In other words, resist the temptation to build new mega resorts in places that will increase the need to travel on an individual basis. If there is no mass transit to a particular destination, more fuel will be consumed getting there, while at the same time increasing emissions of volatile substances.

The seasonal nature of this industry is blending into a year round business, and if handled right, can create year round employment opportunity. Not just for a few businesses, but most of them. Ski areas can adapt by restructuring their facilities to offer year round camping and hiking opportunities, instead of just skiing during the winter. Coastal communities can offer things like museums, art galleries and shopping year round, instead of just during the summer.

But the key to success of this industry will ultimately rest upon the transportation issues, gasoline prices being the foremost factor. Anything we can do to help reduce those costs here in Maine will only serve to increase the tourist dollars for Maine, enriching everybody.

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