Last month, several team members from of our Tourism & Hospitality practice group attended the Explore Minnesota Tourism (EMT) Conference, held this year in Bloomington. It was great to meet face-to-face with many of our current clients and partners (including a strong showing from the Duluth tourism industry!), catch up with industry colleagues, as well as make new connections. It was energizing to once again be back in person!
Below are seven key learnings, reminders and takeaways we gathered from the conference:
Minnesota tourism is bouncing back, but there is still work to be done.
Lauren Bennett McGinty, Executive Director of Explore Minnesota, kicked the conference off with the “Tourism for Minnesota” keynote. After sharing video messages from Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar on the importance of tourism in our state (and their personal Minnesota tourism anecdotes), McGinty shared that while Minnesota is bouncing back from the pandemic and the tourism industry is poised for a strong year, there is still work to be done. Goals for the coming year include building awareness of Minnesota to more national travelers and increasing visitors’ length of stay. To help achieve these goals, McGinty shared that Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan’s budget recommendation includes an increase to EMT’s budget for the first time since FY2014.
Economic development and tourism go hand in hand.
How many times have you visited a new place and said, “I could live here.”? McGinty discussed that part of EMT’s FY2024 budget will include funding for “Explore Minnesota for Business” – a new division within EMT that will tout the “halo effect” between tourism marketing and economic development. She shared that research shows that once someone visits Minnesota, they are 54% more likely to start a business, 76% more likely to consider it a good place to live and 106% more likely to consider it a start a career.
Businesses need to go beyond just “Equal Opportunity” and embrace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as a part of their strategy.
Greg DeShields of Tourism Diversity Matters spoke about the Fundamentals of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. He mentioned that diversity does not just refer to race, but to age, education, physical ability, mental ability, religious beliefs, etc. He also gave good advice on being proactive in educating yourself, while staying open, curious and not fearing mistakes. He mentioned that language is not about being politically correct, but with treating others with respect and dignity. All great reminders, no matter your industry!
When pitching journalists, think about “Betty from Bloomington” (or insert suburb of your choice)
The “Think Like a Journalist” breakout session – we heard from representatives from the Star Tribune, KSTP and Midwest Living. Mike Marcotte, executive producer of KSTP’s Twin Cities Live and Minnesota Live, said when reviewing pitches, his team always asks themselves, “Would Betty from Bloomington care about this?” A great reminder that what is newsworthy to your company or destination, may not resonate with the general public.
“Fun, Engaging and Quirky” are award-winning strategies for a marketing campaign.
This was how the St. Louis County Depot’s marketing campaign for its 130th birthday was described ahead of the team picking up the EMT Award for Marketing Campaign of the Year (business). We can attest to that statement, as many of us had the opportunity to be a part of The Depot’s “Haunted History Tour” back in October while on a trip to Duluth.
Sometimes you need to put on a funny hat in front of strangers (and silence your inner critic).
Katie Goodman led a fun session about “8 Tools of Improv Comedy that We Can Apply to Everyday Life.” She talked about silencing your inner critic, thinking on your feet and saying “Yes, and..” versus “No, but…” There were fun, interactive exercises – one which included throwing on funny hats and improvising a speech with words that were given to you from your tablemates. (Sorry reader, this session was not recorded.)
Scotch and Aquavit do not freeze in subzero temperatures of Antarctica (And Ann Bancroft is an inspiration)
Mendota Heights native and one of the world’s premier polar explorer, Ann Bancroft, shared lessons and stories from her book, “No Horizon is So Far.” Her stories from her travels to the North and South pole are full of grit, determination and humor (and celebratory shots) – with many lessons that can be applied to everyday life. A few of us met with her personally after her speech and left with her inspiring words that one of the best ways we can be a good teammate – is to take care of ourselves.
The conference left us energized to jump back in promoting our tourism and hospitality clients across this great state. (And start planning some Minnesota vacations ourselves!)