From: Victoria Gannon, Portland Press Herald
Published April 29, 2005 12:00 AM

Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce Boosts Maine's Sustainable Tourism Potential

For most of us, Maine is just home. But to Costas Christ, chief executive officer of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, Maine is poised to become a model of sustainable tourism.

Christ is speaking at two upcoming events -- the Governor's Conference on Tourism Friday, and the Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility Annual Conference May 19 -- on the way sustainable tourism is changing the tourism industry and travelers' experiences.

He's well-qualified to speak on the topic. Before taking his current job at the Bar Harbor chamber in 2004, he served for five years as the senior director for ecotourism at Conservation International in Washington, D.C.

There, he supervised the development of ecotourism opportunities in 21 countries.

Ecotourism and sustainable tourism can be defined, he said, as tourism that "sustains cultural and natural heritages and has tangible economic benefits to local communities."

Examples of sustainable tourism in Maine would be taking a tour of the working waterfront, eating at a restaurant that serves locally grown food or buying a souvenir made by a Maine craftsperson.

Such tourism, said Christ, "is not some idealistic vision or dream. This is where the tourism industry is going right now."

Tourists are no longer content to sit on a beach and bask in the sun. Led by members of the baby boom generation, travelers now seek an experience, said Christ, one that "has a bit more meaning and educational value, that has a sense of realness and authenticity."

And Maine is in the ideal position to capitalize on this trend, he said.

Here, "there is a rich cultural and natural heritage. There still is authenticity and character. That sets us apart and we need to protect that."

Christ's relationship with the state precedes his current position.

He attended Unity College in the 1970s, and for many years has owned, and now farms, blueberry land in Hancock County.

Even while working in Washington, he stayed connected to the state. During four of those five years, he commuted there from Maine.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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