by Norman Patry
My favorite statistic from the Buy Local movement is that 76% more money stays in the local economy when you buy local. It makes sense. A dollar spent at Bard, Tandem, Yordprom or any other locally owned coffee shop will only travel as far as the owner’s pocket. Whereas a dollar spent at Starbucks travels across the country to corporate headquarters, where it is then dispersed among employees and ultimately shareholders.
Portland is many things, including a robust tourist town. In 2015, 5.5 million people visited Portland. And tourism created an economic impact of $688 million dollars. Portland is also a town with an award-winning food culture. The reality is that a tiny town of about 66,000 people can’t support Portland’s restaurants. We need the tourists.
Profiling the Tourists
People travel for a variety of reasons. But one thing that unites all travelers in the desire for a unique experience. From a sampling of oysters at Eventide to the thrill of getting your picture taken with Mickey Mouse, and everything in between, experiences create memories.
The Maine Office of Tourism has done a wonderful job of identifying the profiles of the most common visitors to Maine. And they have focused their marketing efforts on the three largest groups: balanced achievers, genuine originals, and social sophisticates.
All come to Maine seeking experiences that support their values and desires. Genuine originals value outdoor recreation. Social sophisticates value excellent accommodations. And balanced achievers value checking things off their bucket lists. Yet among these three distinct groups of travelers, the one thing that unites them is their desire to connect with what is local and unique. If you ask people what their most poignant vacation memories are, I doubt many will say the awesome Baby GAP store
We are fortunate to live in an amazing place. Portland offers great natural beauty, an abundance of locally sourced food, and a strong and friendly community. Where you buy your morning coffee goes beyond feeling good. Indeed, it helps sustain the unique community that draws the tourists. They in turn bring $688 million dollars a year to Portland. This is money that among other things allows our food and beer scene to thrive. Also, it attracts the wonderful mix of people of diverse skills, races and beliefs who have lived and traveled all over the world, and yet choose to make Portland their home.