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How was your season??
Years ago people who made money from Maine's summer tourists (the tourist “industry” had yet to be invented) were just regular people who were the first to figure out that doing business with tourists was a good way to make a lot of money in a little time. Around this time of year you'd ask one of these entrepreneurs how the season went and more than likely they'd say something very illuminating like, “Not too bad.”
These days a lot in the tourist business has changed. Most of the bigger tourist operations are now owned by large out-of-state corporations. That's because tourism in Maine is no longer just a business, it's an “industry,” and therefore is required to act like one.
What does that mean, John?
Well, it means the people now involved in the Tourism Industry have to have things like industry conventions where those in the industry can gather in great numbers and learn from industry experts about industry trends and industry problems. They also learn ways to grow their industry and make it more profitable.
Maine's tourist pioneers didn't have experts, they had hunches, which were cheaper and if good, quite profitable. “I have a hunch that a gift shop with lobster buoys all over the outside of it would do well right about here on Route 1,” a tourist pioneer would say, for example. Several successful shop owners made decisions like that and there wasn't an expert around for miles.
When not making speeches at conventions in Las Vegas and Honolulu, industry experts hire themselves out as facilitators or consultants and tell those who hired them what - if anything - they're doing right. These clever industry experts learned a long tome ago that no matter how things are going it's always good for their business if they find a few things wrong. That way they can add more billable hours to the bill by giving these industry leaders expert advice on how to make things right.
What's a billable hour?
Good question. First invented by members of the legal profession, a billable hour has absolutely nothing to do with how many hours you actually work on a particular thing. Billable hours are the number of hours you can convince a client you worked on it.
And that's another thing, “client.” Remember when only lawyers had clients and all other enterprises had customers? Now, you talk to the owner of a pizza place and he'll be talking about his clients.
The whole point is these days things have gotten so complicated in the Tourism Industry that we don't yet know how things went this past season because the people who operate our tourist enterprises are still waiting to hear from their experts and facilitators on how things went.
And in order to hear from them they have to go to an industry sponsored convention in some glitzy place like Honolulu or Las Vegas, where I understand the Tourism Industry is booming. Or at least, it's not too bad.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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