CARIBOU, Maine – As Aroostook County seeks to attract a wider range of tourists,
a city really wants to get to know its visitors.
Located just north of Près Isle, Caribou has a unique plan to identify who is most likely to visit and then help them see the area as a major destination in the county.
For years, Caribou has attracted tourists largely through word of mouth and promotion of local recreation, businesses, events and destinations via social media. But an aggressive new marketing strategy will target tourists looking for experiences that set Caribou apart from other parts of the state.
This month, the town received a $10,000 business marketing grant from the Maine Office of Tourism. Beginning July 1, the city will work with local marketing consultants and Aroostook County Tourism to identify the groups of people who visit the area most often, the activities they are likely to seek out, and how the city can better target visitors. advertisements on these groups.
“We will be creating ‘tourist profiles’ on who exactly these tourists are and how we can attract them,” said Penny Thompson, City Manager of Caribou. “For example, are they families with children or retirees? Are they visiting family? Are they coming here for the first time? What amenities will they be looking for? »
Once city officials and consultants identify key tourist groups, they will create specific social media and print content to entice those people to visit. Those items will likely include brochures and other postings at Maine visitor centers and short videos highlighting seasonal Caribou activities, Thompson said.
With the grant funds, Caribou will also create a special page on the town’s website dedicated to tourist information. This page will include listings of local restaurants, hotels, gas stations, grocery stores, repair shops, and car dealerships.
Similar to the Visit Aroostook website operated by Aroostook County Tourism, the Visit Caribou page will feature attractions unique to the area, including snowmobile, ATV and walking trails, local farm shops and events such as Thursdays on the Street Sweden, Small Business Saturday and annual craft fair.
Promoting agritourism and other businesses in rural Caribou will be a major focus of the new webpage and social media campaign, Thompson said.
“Tourists know we have recreational trails, but we also have lesser-known things. Goughan’s Farm has tons of things to do, and at Circle B Farms you can pick blueberries and farm-fresh produce,” Thompson said. “We want to show that Caribou is more than what you see on the main road into town.”
Marketing consultant Christina Kane-Gibson thinks Caribou’s strong sense of community and support for entrepreneurs are qualities the town needs to emphasize more.
Kane-Gibson is one of two consultants, along with Bethany Zell of Zell Creative Communications, who will lead the city’s tourism campaign in the next fiscal year and help employees gain marketing and social media know-how. to continue targeting tour groups in the years to come. .
From Caribou herself, Kane-Gibson served as the city’s marketing and events coordinator before leaving to focus on her own business last fall. Many of the proposals from a strategic plan she previously drafted for the city will likely be part of the tourism campaign, such as showcasing small businesses, she said.
“The city, especially now, has been really great in standing up for its contractors,” Kane-Gibson said. “We need to highlight who these people are and how they can serve you if you visit us.”
To better gauge who visits Caribou and why, Kane-Gibson and Zell won’t rely solely on who clicks and likes social media posts. They’ll also chat with tourists attending events and even people who have moved to Caribou to find out what makes the town special to them.
Kane-Gibson already suspects community will be part of their reasons for coming.
“When I worked for the city, we got calls two years in advance from people wanting to come to their high school reunion. [during Thursdays on Sweden]”People always said ‘This is their home’ even though they had been gone for 25 years. So there’s this feeling that Caribou is home that I think might draw people in.