PORTLAND (AP) – A surf and turf war is under way on the city’s waterfront, where this summer’s tourism season has tour boat and trolley operators battling for business.

The laid-back promotion of tourism in Maine’s largest city is being replaced with an aggressive new brand of marketing as more operators compete for the same business.

With street hawkers waving brochures and shouting to anybody within earshot, some members of the tourism industry have begun complaining to city officials.

“This isn’t Times Square,” said Capt. William Frappier III of Coast Watch & Guiding Light Navigation Co. “People don’t come to Portland, Maine, to get yelled at.”

The tiff offers a glimpse into a highly competitive part of Maine’s summer tourism industry, a race for dollars that has intensified this year.

One recent day on Commercial Street, at least six tour company representatives were handing out fliers and trying to convince passers-by to take their trips.

Behind the scenes, the competitors have exchanged angry words about aggressive tactics.

These entrepreneurs are typically family operators, and they make the bulk of their money in 10 weeks, largely from walk-up traffic. This year, more tour businesses are fighting for a piece of a market that may not have enough customers.

“I’m just going to suck it up,” said Dan Libby, owner of Olde Port Mariner Fleet. “I’m going to do the best I can and try to make it through the summer.”

Libby has become a lightning rod for criticism. His street hawkers tend to be loud and aggressive with passers-by. Competitors say such behavior is giving the tour boat business a bad name.

Frappier and his family depend on walk-up traffic for 60 percent of revenue. If one of Libby’s workers intercepts a tourist on the sidewalk, the Frappiers lose a potential customer. So they put workers on the sidewalk, too.

Competition intensified this year after Libby bought a trolley that looks similar to the vehicle used by Mainely Tours. His “sail & trail” tours are now in direct competition with the “land and sea” tour offered by the Frappiers and Mainely Tours.

This arrangement also has caused bad feelings at Mainely Tours, co-owned by Kathy Jenkins. She feels Libby has overstepped his bounds by going head-to-head with the same product, and she isn’t happy with the style of his salesmen.

“We don’t attack people when they’re coming down the street,” Kathy Jenkins said.

These reactions have made Libby defensive.

He talked to a lawyer and an official at Portland City Hall, he said, after a competitor yelled at his workers for hawking tours on the opposite side of Commercial Street.

Libby’s brochures have been disappearing from area hotels, he added, wondering if someone is trying to sabotage his business.

Conflicts have been heightened this season, Libby said, because more tour operators are fighting for business during a season when tourism has been down.

“This used to be fun,” he said. “Now you go home at night and it’s a challenge.”

AP-ES-07-15-03 1225EDT



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