New Webinar Helps Merchants Attract Cruise Line, Day-Tripping Tourists

Tourism officials in Maine expect more than 270,000 cruise ship passengers will visit Maine harbors this season, spending more than $20 million — or more, depending upon retailers’ marketing approaches.

A free, online webinar is now available to help merchants tailor their marketing toward this growing, nontraditional tourist population.

University of Maine economists Jim McConnon and Todd Gabe recently collaborated with University of Southern Maine’s Small Business Development Center, CruiseMaineUSA, Discover Portland and Beyond, and Portland small business owner Sandy Jones of “Something Fishy” to produce the 20-minute webinar. The webinar offers a series of “chapters” with information and marketing tips for Maine businesses poised to roll out the welcome mat for cruise line passengers and other tourists visiting Maine.

“Capturing the Day Tripping Tourist – Cruise Ship and Destination Event Visitors” is for small business owners, economic development practitioners and local community officials who want to strengthen their tourism development efforts, according to McConnon a UMaine Cooperative Extension specialist and professor or economics, and Gabe, a professor of economics in the UMaine School of Economics. Both have extensively studied and documented spending habits and personal characteristics of cruise line passengers.

Maine has ports servicing cruise ship lines, passengers and crew in 10 communities: Kennebunkport, Portland, Freeport, Bath, Boothbay Harbor, Rockland, Camden, Belfast, Bar Harbor and Eastport.

The new online resource offers facts and information every sidewalk vendor and shopkeeper should keep in mind, says McConnon, whose research interests also include microbusinesses and home-based business development in Maine.

“This is for businesses and communities that will be looking at tourists coming in, whether it’s for the lobster festivals, the Fourth of July, American Folk Festival… These tips offer effective strategies for capitalizing on destination tourism,” McConnon says.

Some of the ideas are straightforward and elementary, such as offering excellent customer service. Others are more specific, such as merchants in port communities checking to see which cruise liners will be docking locally and putting up signs welcoming passengers from specific ships, and offering them exclusive discounts.

“These are tips from experts and those who work in destination tourism,” McConnon says. “Many of the tips are research-based, particularly those related to cruise ship customer marketing.”

McConnon and Gabe recently wrote a report about cruise line passenger spending.

Amy Powers, director of CruiseMaineUSA, says McConnon and Gabe’s 2009 analysis of cruise line passengers showed that more than 70 percent of cruise ship passengers are older, educated and earn more and spend more while on vacation. These nontraditional visitors, she adds, will most likely come to visit ports of call businesses regardless of weather, which isn’t true of more local day-trippers whose plans can be disrupted by bad weather.

The webinar, produced and recorded in the last several months, includes interviews, charts, graphs and easy-to-overlook information that can help merchants make appealing pitches to tourists.

“Developing this webinar along with some of the top experts on cruise ship tourism in the state offered us the unique opportunity to get some of our research findings out to business owners who can use the information to boost their bottom line,” adds Gabe. “Knowing more about cruise ship passengers can help businesses immensely when implementing their marketing plans.”

With the July 4 holiday approaching and the tourist season underway, McConnon and Gabe are available to discuss some of the tips in the webinar and from their research about what visitors will be looking for in the way of hospitality, experiences and souvenirs. Please contact George Manlove at (207) 581-3756 for assistance reaching McConnon or Gabe.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756