Explore Minnesota Tourism Council Meeting Minutes, December 7, 2010
Release Date: Dec 07, 2010
Explore Minnesota Tourism Council Meeting Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Present: Maureen Bausch, Fred Bobich, Bonnie Carlson, Randy Gutzmann, Nancy Hanson, Brad Jones, Deb Lloyd, Julie Lunning, Bill Morrissey, Representative Bud Nornes, Lisa Paxton, Ingrid Schneider, Kathy Silverthorn, Sam Thompson, Hank Todd, John Valliere
Guests: Miranda Anderson, Denelle Hilliard, Doug Killian
EMT Staff: John Edman, Leann Kispert, Peggy Lindquist, Peggy Nasby, Colleen Tollefson
Welcome and Introductions: Chair John Edman thanked the Council members for their attendance today. Updates from Council members:
- MLT Vacations will launch United Vacations beginning January 1, 2011
- Bemidji recently opened the Sanford Center
- St. Cloud is expanding their convention center
- Mall of America saw nearly 200,000 visitors on Black Friday. Year end projections are a 7% increase in visitorship, also seeing new tenants.
- Ottertail County is experiencing an overabundance of water
- Some restaurants report increase, while others decline. New restaurants continue to open
- Statewide, golf saw an increase of .8 percent. The metro area reported an increase of .2 percent.
- Rochester launched a billion-dollar plus "Destination Medical Community"
- A survey was just completed by Brainerd Lakes tourism. The survey reports a lot more optimism in the community
- Bloomington reports a better year this year than previous year
Approval of Minutes: Bill Morrissey moved to approve the minutes from the September 14th meeting as submitted. Hank Todd seconded the motion. All Council members in attendance voted to approve the minutes as submitted.
Council Member Appointments: One-half of the Council member appointments expire in January 2011. The list of members has been e-mailed to the Council. For those whose term expires, you will need to reapply through the Secretary of State’s Office. For those who represent an association, it would be helpful to have a letter of recommendation included with your application. New administration will review after the new year. For those who are not interested in reapplying, a letter of resignation is needed.
Legislative Update: Minnesota has a new Governor, along with new leadership. The tourism industry needs to meet with new and returning legislature to bring forward tourism issues. The 2011-2012 Committee Chairs have been named. At this time, it appears that Representative Bob Gunther and Senator Jeff Michel will chair Explore Minnesota Tourism’s committees. Council members were provided with house and senate committee chairs.
EMT put in a legislative request to expand the Council membership (from 28 members to 40) in order to bring more people to the table. Also forwarded the car rental tax request to Departments of Revenue and Finance for review; we have not yet received a response on this issue.
All state agencies were asked to prepare budget reductions at 5, 10 and 15 percent. This is a placeholder for the new administration. EMT would absorb the 5% budget reduction by not filling in behind four staff retirements. A 10% budget reduction would amount to $900,000 and be absorbed by not filling behind retirements and a significant cut in grants. A 15% budget reduction would include all of the previous, including a total elimination of grants and optional restructuring of Travel Information Centers (TICs). EMT would look to partner with other states in operating the border TICs. Discussion from the Council:
- Is it possible to reduce hours at some of the TICs?
- Has heard from Wisconsin that travelers are unhappy with the closure of their TICs. The industry is concerned about this.
- Look at partnering with properties on TICs
- Staff with volunteers (this becomes a union issue for the State)
- Current federal law prohibits revenue
- Brainerd reports that one-third of the visitors to their TIC visit the counter. Statewide TICs vary greatly on this.
- Work with Citizens for the Blind on revenue received from the vending machines at the TICs
- Work toward self service/kiosks
- Rochester has gone completely automatic, offering touch screens. There is a phone available that rings to the Rochester CVB. They report that they are serving more customers through this.
- Look at combination of all the suggestions.
- This is an issue that should be looked at regardless of the budget
Grants Assessment: The grant program needs to be re-evaluated. As a result of a recommendation of the Council, innovative grants were offered for a few years. They have since been eliminated. A task force will be meeting soon. Each region will have a representative. Will need to determine if grants should be competitive or if a complete overhaul is needed.
Currently, the program has a budget of $630,000. A 10 percent cut was assessed to all grants this year. This provided funding to 95 chambers/cvbs and 12 scenic byways. Each grant must be matched.
Discussion from the Council:
- Determine how other states run their grants program
- These grants mean a lot to the small organizations
- How effective are the grants?
- Smaller communities need to talk to legislators on importance of tourism in order to keep budgets intact
- Make application streamlined and simple
- What is the mission of the grants?
- Would it make more sense to award on a competitive basis – i.e. award 4 grants of $120,000 each so they can do some "really big" project – or is it better to award 100 grants of a lesser amount?
- All must support EMT’s mission to generate travel
- The match component is valuable
- Redefine the goal of the grants
The issue of grants will be brought back for discussion at a future Council meeting. Council members should determine who from their region should serve on the task force and let Colleen Tollefson know if interested in attending.
Vacation Home Rental: A task force was formed and has been meeting with resorts, counties, MN Departments of Revenue and Health and property owners. Vacation homes are good for tourism as long as they follow the same rules. When legislation has been introduced for the past two sessions, it has died. In order to continue moving this issue forward and because of the change in administration, will meet again next week with state agencies, along with an outside facilitator.
The MN Department of Health sent letters to over 600 homeowners on this issue. This has caused a greater awareness of the issue, as well as both sides agreeing that a change in legislation is needed.
Parks & Trails Planning: Ingrid Schneider, Nancy Hanson and Colleen Tollefson have been participating for the past eighteen months in the Parks & Trails planning meetings. Discussions and Town Hall meetings have been held on how to spend the legacy money. There are four underlying themes:
- Connect people and outdoors
- Create opportunities
- Taking care of what we have
- Working better together
Need to determine who would be eligible for funding and if DNR would determine the funding. There is an opportunity to comment online (link e-mailed to Council).
State Meetings: Tourism is dealing with the issue of state meetings being held at resorts. This has become a public relations matter. Talking points were provided to the Council when addressing this issue. When this was first appeared on KSTP, the Governor’s office issued a memo to Commissioners reiterating the bid process that state agencies need to follow when bidding a conference. Comments from the Council:
- Is bid process public information? If so, it should be provided to the media
- Tourism needs to sit down with reporter and be proactive to the story
- While webinars do serve a purpose, they do not replace personal interaction
- The media is not basing this on factual issues, but p.r. issues
- When meeting with media, be on point. Show the value of face-to-face meetings
- Where is the industry on this issue? Need to pull together EMT, MN Chamber and Hospitality Minnesota and address. Council members could be meeting with their local editorial boards.
- Roger Dow issued some excellent talking points on this issue
Database/Web Project: Explore Minnesota’s new website was launched today! EMT has been working with BarkleyREI for over a year on this project. New features include a "What’s nearby" map, slideshows for listings, graphical ads, "book it" button and social media links/buttons. This is the soft launch. It was suggested that our site should highlight the Minnesota is tax-free for clothing.
Per state law, EMT must bring in cash and in-kind partnerships from non-state sources. For fiscal year 10, partnerships amounted to $1.107 million in cash and another $171,800 in in-kind. Partners include the tourism industry, other state agencies, federal grant and corporate partners.
More to Explore: The fall ad campaign kick-off included the introduction of the "More to Explore" theme. Each letter is made from something that represents the season. Communities are encouraged to use. The direct mail was sent out in August to 232,000 consumers in six states. The response rate was 12.5%. Response piece included Fall Explorer, state highway map and MN Historical Society brochure. Fall campaign was targeted to couples and city goers. The banner campaign was focused on regional newspapers; it will not be done again in the winter.
In November and January, e-mails will be sent in partnership with the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio.
A sweepstakes entitled "Explore Minnesota Holiday Wish List" was held. Four getaway packages (Bloomington, Rochester, Duluth and Nisswa) were offered as prizes. This sweepstakes received 12,000 entries, with 8,500 opting in.
Most of the winter promotions will be done online. Guys and girls getaways will be promoted. Partners include MetroMix and Moms Like Me.
Fall and winter advertising is being supplemented by MN Department of Natural Resources.
The Spring/Summer television spot is being recorded. It is new and exciting! Joe Mauer participated in the shooting last week. Additional filming will take place this week. The final spot is sixty seconds, but will be broken down into two thirty-second spots. This ad campaign will be used for a couple of years. Will work with agency to determine if song can be used for radio ad campaign.
Met last week with Colle + McVoy and Caribou on a potential partnership. This was a great first meeting to discuss long-term partnership opportunities.
SWIM Marketing Update: Council and others met this summer to discuss marketing the State as a whole under the "Explore Minnesota" name. Buy in from other agencies is needed. Next step is to meet again with state agencies.
Working with DNR on winter marketing partnership. For longer term, DNR has set aside $750,000 for the next biennium for marketing partnership.
Discussions continue with MN Historical Society and KAEE 11 to extend our promotion.
EMT has been meeting with MN Department of Health on healthy living promotion. Looking to continue the "Work hard, play hard" concept. May do some type of contest to get people to pledge to live a healthy life.
The partnership with Mall of America continues and includes the brochure distribution program and EMT commercials running in theaters at the Mall.
EMT is partnership with MSP International Airport for community brochure distribution at the Airport.
Meet in Minnesota Update: Meet in Minnesota started to bring chambers and CVBs together for a strong statewide presence at meetings. Currently planning the ASAE event which will coordinate Minnesota booths with a Minnesota rug identifying the booths from Minnesota. A sales mission to Milwaukee was held this past summer. Another sales mission is being planned for June 2011. An industry meeting will be held on December 9th to discuss and plan. Need to work on data collection for the web page. Currently, all information that has submitted is listed; need to refine definition of a "unique" meeting place/location.
Other: On behalf of MACVB, Kathy Silverthorn is requesting donations for the Silent Auction held during the Tourism Conference.
Deb Lloyd suggested an addition to the website that would be a "storefront" for Minnesota products.
2011 Meeting Dates:
January 25-26: 2011 Tourism Conference at the Grand View Lodge in Nisswa
Tuesday, March 1
Wednesday, June 15
Wednesday, September 14
Tuesday, December 6