Local business owners, merchants and nonprofits gathered at the Boothbay region YMCA's Coastal Club Room on December 3 to think up new ways to promote the Boothbay region.
At the informal meeting called “Market Boothbay,” a group of 20 people discussed strategies to strengthen the region's seasonal tourism into a full year-round operation.
Alan Bebout, vice president of business development at the Boothbay Register, moderated the meeting.
Bebout referred to the region's event calendar and revealed what most everybody already knew. The three-month tourist season is too short to sustain a healthy business climate along the peninsula. New events such as Harbor Fest have fostered new growth in tourism for the region, Bebout said. By exploring new ways to extend the shoulder seasons, Market Boothbay is looking to create a greater advertising impact by combining creative efforts to produce more events throughout the year. But where to begin?
The attention turned to the first quarter of the calendar between the months of January and March, when business in the Boothbay region typically slows to a dead crawl. Restaurant owner Mary Kaler and YMCA director Andy Hamblett recommended starting from square one. By focusing on the resources and assets the Boothbay region already has, new events could be tailored for both locals and visitors.
Ideas were suggested such as a winter carnival, or closing the streets of Boothbay Harbor to host a sprawling farmer's market during the summer months. Tom Dewey, store manager at Video Loft, said while all new events should start small, a great deal of preparation and organization needs to happen for an event to become popular. It's probably too late in the season to create a brand new event for the first quarter in 2014, Dewey said.
Business owners also said the traditional ways of advertising were not as effective in the face of modern online marketing. Boothbay Register Chief Operating Officer Kipp Wright explained how the newspaper's website has not only extended the advertising reach to regional clientèle, but it also draws significant online traffic from prospective customers outside the region, particularly through social media.
YMCA Membership and Marketing Director Meagan Hamblett said that in March, hundreds of kids and families from around the state come to YMCA for the month long basketball tournaments. She suggested area businesses pull together and engage visitors who come to the region looking for something to do. If businesses could collaborate and provide an online venue to engage visitors, then the community could benefit, Hamblett said.
The Market Boothbay discussion covered a wide range of topics; however, many of the attendees agreed that more businesses, such as restaurants, hotels and other local merchants needed to join the conversation.
The next Market Boothbay meeting is scheduled for January 16 at 5:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend. To join in before the meeting, visit the Market Boothbay community Facebook page: www.facebook.com/marketboothbay.