Maine Tourism to increase in 2010 by Matt Zito.

In early January 2009, I e-mailed my travel and tourism colleagues and warned, “Be prepared that your gross sales will be down by a minimum of 7 to 12 percent in 2009.” I wanted to give my friends and colleagues a third-party, nonbiased view of what was possible so they could start preparing and not be in a state of shock six months down the road.

I pretty much nailed it on the head, judging from the final 2009 figures as they come in from travel industry research companies and Maine’s official state numbers. The Maine Revenue Services declared 2009 the worst tourism season on record.

Yes, 2009 was a bad year. We all know that. But guess what? The 2010 summer tourist season is coming right around the corner.

What is going to happen?

Will the tourists show up or will they continue to slow their pace in visiting the great Vacationland?

What can you do now to stop the bleeding?

How can you stabilize your revenue so it won’t keep going down?

How can you counter the pundits and actually grow your business in 2010?

My name is Matt Zito and I am a veteran travel business entrepreneur and a small-business consultant in the travel and tourism industry. I have built and sold two travel and tourism businesses. CollegeSkiTrips.com was one of the largest online youth ski and snowboard travel agencies in North America and is now owned by the largest ski tour operator in the country, Ski.com. The Yellow Breeches House B&B and Fly Fishing Lodge was a nationally renowned lodging property in Boiling Springs, Pa. In my early 20s I was an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing guide. I am also a published author with the top business publisher in the country, John Wiley & Sons of New York.

My goal for this column is simple: to provide you with a combination of new, 21st century sales and marketing strategies and old school, tried-and-true marketing techniques you can implement in 2010 to help you grow and build your business. I will cover marketing, advertising and sales strategies, online marketing, online advertising, e-mail marketing, business development strategy, new product development, social media, search engine and Web 2.0 strategy, and online technology tools for your travel- and tourism-based business. I will pull from more than 15 years of knowledge and experience in the travel and tourism business combined with my active consulting and entrepreneurial travel business endeavors.

I will spend a large portion of the columns discussing Internet and Web site strategies, as travel is now the No. 1 product purchased on the Internet. I have experience online not only as a marketer and advertiser of travel but as a Web site developer of travel as well. I have built a handful of Web sites and understand the underlying technology that is being used today. Web site technology and how you can use Web-based technology tools to improve sales and efficiency in your business will be discussed.

The format of this column will include one strategy, followed by three question and answers at the end of the column. My goal is to publish one article two times a month or every 14 days. It is my intent to answer reader questions about the business of travel and tourism and create interaction between readers and this column. I believe a Q&A section will be a valuable component for you.

If your business derives any portion of its income from the travel and tourism industry in Maine, this column will give you strategies and ideas you can use to help start and-or scale up your business in 2010. Small businesses that will benefit from this column include, hotels, motels, B&Bs, lodging properties, resorts, tour guides, guides, tour operators, travel agencies, restaurants and retail shops in destination and tourist areas, marketing directors of travel and tourism businesses and companies that sell products and services to companies in the travel and tourism business in Maine.

Travel and tourism is the No. 1 industry in Maine. There are thousands of businesses involved directly or indirectly with the travel and tourism industry. It is my intent to help these small businesses in this industry to grow and prosper by reading my column. I look forward to writing this column and getting to know many of you.

This article was first printed in the Bangor Daily News.