Graham Sustainability Institute

Decreasing Vulnerability in Maine’s Beaches Business Community

Why this work?

Sea-level rise and extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change currently impact Maine’s coastline and are anticipated to increase in frequency and strength. Beach-based businesses, a powerful economic engine for Maine, are generally little prepared for storm surge and coastal flooding. Yet lessons learned from previous disasters underscore how important the recovery of businesses is to the overall recovery of a region’s economy. 

This project will adapt and transfer the Tourism Resilience Index, previously developed for the Gulf of Mexico, to Southern Maine. Coastal businesses in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk will be facilitated through a process to assess their ability to maintain operations during and after a disaster. Through this project, the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve will collaborate with business leaders, municipalities and regional climate adaptation professionals to generate outcomes that decrease Maine’s beaches business community’s vulnerability to natural disasters. 

About this project

Using a collaborative approach that engages researchers and local business owners, the project team will adapt a tourism-resilience index for southern Maine businesses. After pilot-testing, a broader community of local business leaders will complete facilitated self-assessments in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk, Maine. Participating businesses will be given their custom tourism-resilience index, or score, along with a set of suggested steps they can take to increase their resiliency to natural disasters. The project team will meet with these same businesses one year later to reassess and measure progress. The project team will aggregate the indices of participating businesses and a summary of lessons learned will be shared with southern Maine chambers of commerce, municipalities and climate adaptation professionals. Strategies for adapting and implementing the tourism resilience index in different regions will also be shared with business communities, climate adaptation professionals, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve system. Project results will highlight common gaps and barriers businesses share when it comes to increasing their resilience to natural disaster.

Project lead and contact

Annie Cox, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Email: 

To learn more, view the project factsheet (PDF) or the Wells NERR project page.