Five women stand together on a stage

Seven Takeaways from the 2023 Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference

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!)


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