The Tourism Mentorship Assistance Program (TMAP) represents an 18-month long program that partners current successful business owners in Alaska’s visitor industry with potential business owners committed to furthering the development of the visitor industry in Alaska’s rural areas. As a progression from the Division of Economic Development's D.A.R.T. program of targeted technical assistance in the form of trainings and workshops, the Tourism Business Mentorship program brings participants the opportunity to apply their business skills into the establishment and operation of a new business.
The program will provide potential business owners in rural Alaska with access to experts in the visitor services industry. These experts will have the opportunity to conduct site visits to rural Alaskan communities and will ultimately serve as a conduit for distributing information about these potential businesses and communities to their peers within the travel industry. Mentors will help open up avenues for networking and assist participants in learning how to set up tour packages to their communities (i.e. negotiating airfare, lodging, activities, etc.).The program intends to help potential tourism business owners confront and overcome many physical and psychological barriers to starting and operating a tourism business in rural Alaska.
The agencies involved in this project include the:
- Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development (Commerce)
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development
- U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration
- Alaska Regional Economic Development Organizations (ARDORs)
- Bed and Breakfast Association
The timeline for TMAP extends from October 2006 to March 2008. Participants selected to be entrepreneurs in this program have shown an interest in the development of tourism as a means of economic growth for their rural communities. The mentors in the program share this interest in promoting tourism and economic development in rural Alaska.
Goals of the Tourism Business Mentorship Program
The program seeks to encourage economic growth and diversification of rural economies by establishing visitor industry/tourism-related businesses in rural Alaska. It seeks to do this by increasing employment in the visitor industry in economically distressed regions of Alaska by assisting individuals to move from being simply interested in starting a business to actually starting a business.
The goals of the program include:
- Provide the resources necessary for potential business owners to transition from interest in starting a business to actually establishing a business.
- Provide potential business owners with access to experts in the visitor/hospitality industry.
- Assist participants in developoing their tourism business skills training
- Open up avenues for networking between the emerging rural visitor industry and the existing visitor industry
Structure of TMAP
The program brings together existing business owners and potential business owners to form a dynamic relationship of exchanging ideas, providing encouragement, and expanding networks in Alaska’s expanding visitor industry. The project provides assistance to entrepreneurs in the following business development areas:
- Business planning
- Best practices
- Budget management
- Website development
- Capitalization and funding strategies
- Other requested areas of emphasis
Additionally, mentors and entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas.
- All mentors and entrepreneurs will meet in a general orientation to introduce the program, allow face-to-face interaction between mentor and entrepreneur, and to meet and exchange ideas with the other participants of the tourism mentorship program.
- Mentors will conduct periodic site visits to gain a greater understanding of the challenges tourism business owners confront in rural Alaska. They will also review the progress of project participants and perform an assessment of their business while on site.
- Participants will travel to observe mentor businesses, gain hands on experience, conduct site visits, meet with other business owners, etc.