Balancing Tourism, Weather and a Slow Economy

There is no question the last week has been a tough one for small businesses in The County.   While I was at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism on the Maine Coast last Wednesday and Thursday,  The County was succumbing to the wrath of Mother Nature.   When the rain stopped and the skies cleared, the enormity of the result was really surreal.

Articles in the newspaper last weekend concerning the loss of continuity to the trail system as a result of unseasonably warm temps and subsequently the impact of that loss on the local economy certainly stirred up some comments and raised the question of the need for all of us to understand and differentiate between local riding opportunities and what our visiting population’s expectations are.

The one thing we all can agree on is February is typically a busy month in The County for snowmobile tourism;  they come from Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and even the sunny south…..Florida.   When they roll in their expectation is to cover as much of The County as they can in their 5-10 day stay.  They want to stop by Two Rivers Restaurant in Allagash, or experience ployes at the Sporting Club or wing night at Lakeview.  They want to stop for lunch at Rosette’s or Al’s Diner or they want to savor the unbelievable portions of home cooking at the Blue Moose or Grammy’s.  Maybe they want to catch the night life at Eureka Hall or the Inns and Convention Centers.  Maybe it’s the family atmosphere at Shin Pond Village.  Or maybe they look forward to stopping by the Meduxneakeag Ramblers Clubhouse or the Washburn Clubhouse for breakfast or the Presque Isle Clubhouse for stew night Friday night.  Or maybe they want to take in some of the great views along the Border Trail or experience some of the great riding in southeastern parts of The County

Whatever their culinary pleasure or entertainment pleasure, they want to get in 100-200 plus mile days and cover as much of The County as possible.   What the recent rain and warm temps created was a situation where their options became extremely limited which is why many of them canceled or temporarily postponed their visits.

Unfortunately in tough economic times, we can lose our focus and forget what the expectations of our visitors are.   Although we are enthusiastic about our local conditions we sometimes  give out information that creates a false positive…..not intentionally….but based on our need to draw that potential tourist to our local region which typically is not sufficient to meet the visitors needs and when they arrive and find the limitations it discourages them from returning in the future.

The competition for tourism dollars is tough.  If we truly wish to support and expand tourism in The County and fight to make it the destination  for snowmobile enthusiasts across the country, we truly need to learn to differentiate between what we as locals will settle for and what our visitors expectations are.

For now, let’s just hope that Mother Nature aligns herself with the seasons and opens all County connections for our visitors to enjoy…..hopefully as you are reading this we are getting our first big February snow !!

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Kathy Mazzuchelli

About Kathy Mazzuchelli

Kathy Mazzuchelli is superintendant of the Caribou Parks and Recreation Department where she has worked for 38 years. An avid snowmobiler, Mazzuchelli’s first sled was a 1968 Polaris Mustang back in the days when groomed trails were done with snowmobiles, bedsprings and some pretty feisty folks.