Office of Tourism Development Tourism Mentorship Assistance Program (TMAP) The Tourism Mentorship Assistance Program (TMAP) represented an 18-month long program that partnered 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 offered participants the opportunity to apply their business skills into the establishment and operation of a new business. The program provided potential business owners in rural Alaska with access to experts in the visitor services industry. These experts conducted site visits to rural Alaskan communities and served as a conduit for distributing information about these potential businesses and communities to their peers within the travel industry. Mentors helped open up avenues for networking and assisted participants in learning how to set up tour packages to their communities (i.e. negotiating airfare, lodging, activities, etc.).The program was intended 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 included 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 was October 2006 to March 2008. Participants selected to be entrepreneurs in this program showed interest in the development of tourism as a means of economic growth for their rural communities. The mentors in the program shared this interest in promoting tourism and economic development in rural Alaska. Goals of the Tourism Business Mentorship Program The program encouraged economic growth and diversification of rural economies by establishing visitor industry/tourism-related businesses in rural Alaska. Program objectives included 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 included: 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 brought 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 provided assistance to entrepreneurs in the following business development areas: Business planning Best practices Budget management Website development Capitalization and funding strategies Packaging Marketing Other requested areas of emphasis Additionally, mentors and entrepreneurs had the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas. Mentors and entrepreneurs met 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 conducted periodic site visits to gain a greater understanding of the challenges tourism business owners confront in rural Alaska. They reviewed the progress of project participants and performed an assessment of their business while on site.