PORTLAND (AP) – A Maine company has been awarded a $190,000-a-year contract to count and track tourists that come to the state, replacing a Toronto-based company that held the contract for 12 years.

Digital Research Inc. of Kennebunk and its tourism division, Davidson-Peterson Associates, plan to provide data to the Maine Office on Tourism on a seasonal basis, giving the state a 90-day look back at visitor behavior and spending patterns. Longwoods International, the previous contract holder, issued annual reports.

“That kind of real-time information will be crucial,” said John Richardson, the state’s economic development commissioner.

Tourism is Maine’s single largest economic contributor, generating $10 billion in sales, 140,000 jobs and $429 million in taxes in 2006. Tracking travel and spending behavior provides a way to calculate changes in tourism trade while helping the industry follow trends and adjust marketing efforts.

Digital Research tried twice before to win the state contract, but lost out to Longwoods both times.

The company applied again early last year, initially losing to Longwoods by a slim margin but then appealing the decision and contesting the review process.

Richardson then decided to rebid the contract, refine the state’s request criteria and change the makeup of the selection committee, which previously included representatives of the tourism industry.

Digital Research was awarded the contract in March. The paperwork will be signed this month, for a one-year contract, with the option of two one-year renewals.

The contract represents a victory for Robert Domine, the firm’s president, who moved his company to Maine from Connecticut in 1999 and merged with Davidson-Peterson.

The company, which has 25 employees, has nearly 35 years of experience in market research and consulting, including similar visitor research for Wisconsin, Minnesota and Georgia.

In Maine, Digital Research has conducted traveler analysis for the Portland International Jetport. But winning the state tourism contract was important to the company’s image, Domine said.

“There are only a handful of companies in the country that focus on tourism and travel research,” he said. “Being located in Maine, it’s important for us to say we do this work in our home state.”

Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

AP-ES-04-19-08 0932EDT

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