Opinion

Tourism and Rockland, What is the winning mix?

Posted:  Sunday, May 13, 2018 - 7:15pm
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Rockland is on the rise. Our modest city is now an arts destination with some of the best restaurants in Maine. Tourists are drawn to its rugged coastal charm and the feel of a real working waterfront. The city’s economy is growing with new businesses opening, while also having one of Maine’s highest concentration of manufacturing jobs per capita. We are a key regional economic hub for surrounding towns and the islands. Our city’s growth has led us to a crossroads, and we need to be mindful about how we proceed.

Everyone involved in the cruise ship debate agrees that tourism is an important economic driver for Rockland. How can we enjoy the economic benefits of tourism, but at the same time hold on to our small harbor town identity/community and also protect our unique coastal environment and the industries/people that depend on it for a living? The Cape Town Declaration of Responsible Tourism seems to have a viable solution that could be an excellent choice for Rockland and perhaps for the Maine coast. They promote the concept of responsible and sustainable tourism which includes the following characteristics.

Responsible Tourism minimizes negative economic, social, and environmental impacts:

  • generates maximum economic benefits for local residents and enhances
  • the well-being of host communities and their tourism related enterprises;
  • recruits and employs staff following International Labor Standards and
  • the standards of the 2006 Maritime Labor Convention (ilo.org);
  • ensures that tourism enterprises do not operate to the detriment of other host industries;
  • involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and personal opportunities;
  • makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage;
  • provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater appreciation of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
  • is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence;
  • minimizes negative environmental impact of their offerings;
  • considers the volume and type of tourism that the host community and the environment can support;
  • respects the the integrity of vulnerable ecosystems and protected areas;• ensures that best practices are followed with consultation from environmental and conservation experts;
  • uses resources sustainably and reduces waste and over-consumption.

The goal of responsible tourism is to “encourage planning authorities, tourism businesses, tourists and local communities – to take responsibility for achieving sustainable tourism, and to create better places for people to live in and for people to visit.” 

Rockland is a popular tourist destination. It makes sense to hold on to the reasons why Rockland is so appealing to visitors as well as to its residents. Independent studies (not funded by the cruise ship industry) show that the longer tourists stay per visit, the greater the chances that they will spend money and return.

Tourists come to Rockland to enjoy our beautiful vistas, see our lobster boats, ride on our schooners, visit our museums, shop in our unique shops, eat in our interesting restaurants, and get a breath of clean ocean air. Let’s hold on to our small town status, and protect what is so special about Rockland. We should promote tourism, but selectively choose the type of tourism that fits best with our town and over the years sustains the type of development that will continue to draw visitors from near and far.

Let’s agree to promote sustainable, responsible tourism which will not only insure our economic growth, but also maintain our quality of life and the unique aspects that make Rockland and its surrounding area a desirable place to visit and live.

What is our alternative, Irresponsible Tourism?

I encourage residents, businesses, and organizations from Rockland and surrounding towns/islands to join us in forming an Alliance for Responsible Tourism (ART). Our website (ARTRockland.org) will be coming soon with details to follow.

Sally Wylie lives in Rockland