BOSTON -- When it comes to motorcoach tours of New England, one often overlooked state would like to reposition itself as the "Maine Event," according to Dann Lewis, director of Maine's Office of Tourism.

"Our marketing research has shown that the overall impression of Maine is positive but not distinctive from the rest of New England," Lewis said. Noting that respondents found the state lacking in excitement and a sense of history and culture, Lewis said, "What we're trying to do is build awareness of Maine as a destination rich in arts, heritage and outdoor adventure."

Because of the diversity of active vacation products, the state is particularly suited to outdoor enthusiasts and families, Lewis said. One of the ways officials are seeking to spice up Maine's image is by expanding offerings available through motorcoach tours.

Overall, motorcoach travel is an important part of the tourism industry and one that generates more than $300 million for Maine's economy, according to Lewis. "Fall foliage is very important, but we also would like to push some of the specialized soft-adventure products we can offer, like moose and bird- watching," he said. "Bald eagles and other wildlife also can be seen relatively easily in northern and eastern Maine."

Because Maine is frequently packaged in conjunction with other northern New England states and Nova Scotia, Lewis said there is a strong effort to strengthen relationships with those other destinations.

The tourism office has been working to jointly promote the new high-speed ferry that goes from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. "The ferry is a 300-foot, high-speed catamaran and can carry 400 passengers as well as tour buses," Lewis said. In addition to offering a scenic alternative to driving, the ferry cuts out about 600 miles of driving between the two locations, he said.

Another important attraction for motorcoach tours is factory outlet shopping, thanks largely to the popularity of L.L. Bean in Freeport and the Kittery Trading Post in Kittery. Kittery alone boasts almost 200 outlet stores, "packed with bus tours," Lewis said. "We have 39 million day-trippers to Maine per year who spend $1.7 billion," he said.

While the stores reap the lion's share of their business, Lewis said everyone else benefits, from the government collecting sale tax to the local restaurants and outlet employees.

In addition to drawing shopaholics, the outlet malls drive repeat business from people who want to see more than the glimpse of Maine they caught while visiting the stores. Winter is an important season in Maine, particularly among ski buffs.

But ski resorts are working to transform themselves into year-round destinations, he said, citing Sugarloaf USA as a standout, with its golf course and outdoor recreation facilities suitable for warm-weather activities. Sunday River ski resort is in the process of developing the four-season concept as well, he said.

Another strong draw to Maine is the food, which, Lewis said, showed up on the tourism office's marketing research. "Our ad campaigns feature fine dining and, of course, the lobster, which is so closely identified with Maine." Maine Office of Tourism, Phone: (888) 624-6345, or (207) 287-5711, Fax: (207) 287-8070, Web: www.visitmaine.com

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