Explore Minnesota Tourism Council Meeting Minutes, March 1, 2011
Release Date: Mar 01, 2011
Explore Minnesota Tourism Council Meeting Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Present: Bonnie Carlson, Randy Gutzmann, Nancy Hanson, Brad Jones, Deb Lloyd, Mark Novotny, Lisa Paxton, Cynthya Porter, Ingrid Schneider, Kathy Silverthorn, Sam Thompson, Representative John Ward
Guests: Denelle Hilliard, Doug Killian, Dan McElroy
EMT Staff: John Edman, Leann Kispert, Peggy Lindquist, Peggy Nasby, Cheryl Offerman, Colleen Tollefson
Welcome & Introductions: Chair John Edman thanked the Council members for their attendance today and asked what their hopes/expectations are for 2011:
- Diversified funding
- Integrated marketing
- Increased/retain budget, increased opportunities for international marketing
- Hotel adjacent to Sanford Center, a bridge on 197
- Better understanding from their respective group/association/organization/community
- Meet members of their organizations
- Legislative adjournment on time
- Federal highway bill funding
- Big visions for little area
- National Eagle Center is now on board
- People travel to see disasters (flooding)
- Red Wing saw their second best year ever
- Fuel costs affecting the industry
- Increased funding for tourism marketing
- Public tours increase by 25%
- Need more visitors to state in order to increase tours
- Hoping for good things from legislature
- Resources at Tourism Center are available
- CMR has a new website
- Sanity and stability for meeting planners
- Increased group rates
- Phase II expansion at Mall of America
- Foreign language content
- No sales tax on clothing
- Take advantage of great website
- EMT new television spot to begin airing in three weeks
Approval of Minutes from December 7th Meeting: Brad Jones moved to approve the minutes from the December 7th meeting as submitted. Doug Killian seconded the motion. All Council members in attendance voted to approve the minutes as submitted.
Council Member Appointments: Half of the Council member appointments expired in January 2011. Of those, approximately half have indicated they wish to return and reapply to the Council. Current members remain on the council until new members are appointed. EMT is working with the Governor’s Office on the new appointments. Hope to have the new appointments finalized within the next 3-4 weeks.
There is currently a bill in process to expand the Council to 40 members. This would support the efforts of working with other state agencies and include those agencies on the Council.
Tourism Conference: Approximately 300 attendees participated in the 2011 Tourism Conference held at the Grand View Lodge in Nisswa. Evaluations were provided to all attendees; 93 evaluations were returned. Comments were very positive regarding the breakout sessions and workshops. Attendees loved the indoor portion of the facility but struggled with the outdoor arrangements. The Council was asked to provide feedback for future Tourism Conferences:
- Two days is the perfect length
- Very important for those in the tourism industry to attend
- Great presenters
- Conference provides high-level/big picture applications – practical applications not there. Is it possible for EMT to host some follow-up sessions (i.e. social media)
- Thought social media break out session was great and very in-depth
- Would like to see roundtable discussions held at the conference – make more interactive, but would need strong facilitator for each break out session in order to keep it focused and on track
- Various organizations hold meetings prior to the start of the Tourism Conference, so conference should not start before noon
- Offer conference rate the night before for those coming in early
Comments regarding future location:
- At one point, the conference was held in metro one year, and Greater Minnesota the following
- When the conference is held in the metro, too many attendees leave in the evening/banquet. Much of the social interaction/relationship building is lost
According to state rules, the conference still must go out on bid, but Council input provides valuable information on what needs to be said in the specs. EMT will look at starting the conference will the luncheon and end the following day with a lunch. Since the conference has been in the Brainerd area the past two years, will try to focus on southern and western Minnesota location.
Legislative Update: Presentations were made to both House and Senate Committees. Tourism is getting exposure with the current legislature. Governor Dayton has proposed a one percent tax on car rentals to fund EMT. This would result in an additional $2.75 million in the first year and $3 million in the second year. These additional funds would be used to reach new markets. Now is the time for the tourism industry to contact their legislators on the value of tourism to their area. Comments from the Council:
- This is a unique opportunity for the tourism industry in that the Governor has proposed an increase for EMT
- Should draft a separate piece of legislation for this funding in the event the Governor’s budget proposal bill does not proceed
- This is an opportunity for association to come together and ask for support
- This tax is targeted at travelers to Minnesota, not residents
- Tourism is job preservation and job growth. Council and industry need to push hard to make this happen
- Because many legislators campaigned on the issue of no new taxes, and this is a new tax, what if it is a fee? This was looked into but any fees collected at the airport must be used for airport operations. Hospitality Minnesota is having their attorney look into this very issue.
- Many of the legislators only want to hear from constituents in their area. Be sure you are contacting your local legislator
- Hospitality Day is March 9. This is a great opportunity to speak to your local legislator on the issue.
- Powerpoint presentation should have more focus on ROI
Next steps: Lisa Paxton will craft an e-mail and forward to Council. Council members need to contact their legislators and have their associations do the same. Mark Novotny will speak to CMR’s lobbyist about drafting separate legislation.
Public Policy Issues:
Vacation Home Rental: There is no bill from Hospitality Minnesota or Congress of Minnesota Resorts introduced regarding Vacation Home Rental. The MN Department of Health is not planning a bill.
Labor Day School Start: Governor Dayton supports the post-Labor Day school start. John Edman and Colleen Tollefson will be meeting with the Commissioner of the MN Department of Education next week to discuss the tourism industry concerns on the issue.
When contacting your local legislators, reference House File 627 and Senate File 410. Comments from the Council:
- School districts can currently seek an exemption if their district has a $400,000+ building project scheduled. CMR has added the building project has to be a minimum of one million dollars and the project must affect classroom activities.
- Southern Minnesota had 60 districts seeking the exemption but that number has been cut to 30. Many of the school teachers unions are voting against.
- There is a real need to defend the "traditional summer season."
- 4-H Clubs are working hard to support the post-Labor Day school start
- Year round schools are coming (45 days in, 15 days off). Test scores are showing remarkable results. Tourism will have to be prepared to adapt to this issue when addressed
- Council had previously adopted a resolution on the issue
Park and Trails Legacy Plan: A hearing is scheduled for March 2nd. There is a need for marketing funds to be used to market all parks and trails.
License Fees/Invasive Species: DNR is proposing an increase of $3 for a one-day fishing license for non-residents. The money collected would be used to help contain the spread of invasive species. Comments from the Council:
- Hospitality Minnesota has addressed some concerns about the fee increase
- This is a minimum fee for non-residents when compared to other states
- There is significant money through legacy funds, are additional funds needed?
Limit state agency meetings: House File 574 was introduced and has moved forward. This bill would limit state agencies to hold meetings through electronic means. Each agency would have some flexibility to grant their own waivers. There is no senate companion to the bill.
Other legislative updates:
There has also been a bill introduced that would demand all Veteran organizations be inspected by the Department of Health. This would be Legion halls, VFWs, swimming pools, camps, etc. Currently, there are two Knights of Columbus organizations within the state that run restaurants/bars.
The Minnesota retailers are behind a bill collecting taxes on online agencies. The retailers believe this creates a more level playing field for them. The Council’s position on this relative to online travel taxes remains that this should be done on a federal level and should not require hotels to enforce/implement.
Explore Minnesota Website: The new website is up and running. EMT continues to receive positive feedback on the site, as well as the tourism manager that the industry uses for updating their information. In the first two months, the site is on par with last year – approximately 275,000 hits and one million page views. The online tool will be tested via beta release. The Travel Trade and Meet in Minnesota sites are also part of the rebuild.
There has been a lot of discussion on mobile applications. BarkeyREI (vendor) provided some strategic recommendations to EMT. For fiscal year 11, one mobile application will be built that serves both Android and IPhones. Mobile enhancements will be added to the site beginning next fiscal year. When reviewing other state sites, we found that most states are doing mobile applications.
Secondary projects for the site include the ad helper and asset manager. This tool will help communities incorporate the "More to Explore" message onto their advertising.
Comments from the Council:
- Remember to look at Smartphones when reviewing mobile apps
- Tie in to 4-square concept/tie in to social media in some way
- Get travelers to think BEFORE they are traveling
- Data indicates that by 2012, 50% of people will want to receive their information on their phone
- Need to capture mobile data and send/promote future offers
- Brainerd reports that their recurring traffic has increased eightfold since the new site went up
- Would like to see EMT do some type of training for the industry on this; perhaps some type of "mini conference" with specific topic
More to Explore Advertising: Explore Minnesota Tourism has been meeting with the MN Department of Health on partnering healthy/active living. A meeting will be held this week between the two agencies to present a multi-year plan. Once this plan is approved, would look to other groups and companies with health interests who could also partner on the marketing.
Partnering with DNR for spring/summer campaign. This campaign is still being developed
Working with Minnesota Historical Society on a great partnership opportunity. EMT is receiving status as a "premier" sponsor. EMT and Xcel are the only two who have this type of sponsorship with MHS. This will include our logo on every ad piece they produce, along with signage in their facilities.
Spring/summer media plans include a coop piece with Midwest Living. This piece just came out this week and is already producing leads.
Online and electronic marketing begin this week through various outlets.
Direct mail will go out to 500,000 consumers in the five-state area. This is in partnership with Caribou Coffee.
New commercial with Joe Mauer will launch March 28; working to tie-in with season opener of the Minnesota Twins.
EMT Branding Research: As recommended at the Council’s strategic planning session last year, EMT is working with Colle +McVoy on a year-long project to determine how our brand resonates with stakeholders and the industry. Comments from the Council:
- The only thing that matters is how consumers/customers view the brand
- Focus on consumer
- Ask consumer how they want to receive information
- Needs to be streamline so EMT can react
- Need to get Governor on board so all state agencies work together for the common good
International Marketing Overview: Cheryl Offerman provided an overview of the international marketing program. The target markets are: Canada, Mexico, Germany, United Kingdom, Nordic Countries, China and Japan. The markets are promoted through various activities such as travel trade show, sales mission, fam tours, advertising and special promotions. Top interests on international visitors are Mall of America, shopping, Mississippi River, Lake Superior and the great outdoors (BWCA, Voyageurs National Park). The topic activities of the international visitors are American Indian heritage, wildlife centers, golfing, outdoor activities, music/theater, history and sporting events. The average U.S. stay for an international traveler is 2 ½ weeks. There is a high-potential growth market to international visitors. Articles that are written by international writers are posted on the industry site. Comments from the Council:
- The Mall of America hosts 42 million visitors. Of this, 7% are international guests
- MSP Airport is extremely accommodating to international guests
- Smaller communities have limited resources to tap into international markets
- Communication barriers make marketing prohibitive
- There is a need to educate regions in the value of international marketing
- Communities need to make their product consumable and packed to the international market
- Promote itineraries/bundle the package Minnesota has to offer
2012/2013 Strategic Planning: The Council participated in a strategic planning session last year that provided groundwork for moving forward. The next planning session would be held to prepare a two-year plan. This would be a facilitated session. Because of the busy summer season, Council has requested that EMT look at moving this session into May. An e-mail will be forthcoming to Council members.
Grant Program Review: Explore Minnesota Tourism reviewed guidelines from approximately 15-20 other states to review what they are doing with their grant programs. There are many things to review such as the goal of the program, reviewing innovative grants, who are eligible applicants. A task force will meet to review. Council comments include:
- Needs to be a collaborative effort
- Needs to couple with destination message
- Drive travel to Minnesota destination
- The same people apply for and receive grants year after year. It should be for new, growing markets. Should not be used to sustain existing markets
- Some communities seem to use the grant program as a subsidy
- Include for-profits
- Focus on future trends (mobile)
- Use forward-thinking agenda
- Make it competitive. Competition drives the market
- Small CVBs would be non-existent without the grant program
- Need to make sure the money in the grant program are being used to accomplish the goal of EMT
Tourism Awareness: The new Economic Impact piece/information is available as a leave-behind. Industry should use when meeting with legislators. The annual economic impact of travel/tourism to Minnesota is $11 billion and sales tax from leisure and hospitality is now 17% of all state sales tax.
Tourism Week is in May. All areas of the state are asked to consider doing some type of tourism awareness activity in May. The metro region will host an event at Valleyfair on Wednesday, May 11. Regions should work together to promote what tourism means to their area.
The Governor’s Fishing Opener creates a lot of media exposure and will be held during Tourism Week.
Preliminary discussions are being held with Carlson Companies to arrange some type of "Tourism CEO roundtable" meeting that would involve CEOs and the media.
Future Meeting Dates:
June 15 (Strategic Planning session – may need to move to different date)