Explore Minnesota Tourism Council Meeting Minutes, September 11, 2012
Release Date: Dec 17, 2012
New Member Orientation:
Prior to the full Council meeting, new members attended an orientation/overview on the duties and responsibilities of the Council. Members were provided copies of the Tourism & The Economy, 2011 Annual Report and Marketing Opportunities. The Council statutes and the Code of Ethics were also provided.
New members include:
Sunny Bhakta: Sunny is owner of the Comfort Inn in Lakeville and Owatonna. She is the incoming President of the Minnesota Lodging Association. She represents the lodging industry.
Lisa Havelka: Lisa is the tourism director for the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. She represents SMTA/southern region.
Jim Hey: Jim is the vice president of Southwest Coaches/Southwest Tour & Travel. He represents the tour operator segment.
Bruce Martinson: Bruce is the Cook County Commissioner, and also owns Superior Ridge Resort & Motel in Schroeder. He represents counties.
Julie Wearn: Julie is CEO of the Roseville Visitors Association. She represents MACVB.
Senator John Carlson also attended the orientation.
The Council is a 28-person Council, appointed by the Governor. EMT looks to the Council for advice and direction on marketing the state. Each member is appointed to a four-year term. Four legislators serve on the Council – two from the House, two from the Senate. Council meetings are held quarterly (typically March, June, September and December). Council members are also encouraged to attend and participate in the Tourism Conference.
There are also smaller task forces/subcommittees that are created as needed, and Council members are encouraged to participate in those groups as needed and available. Lisa Paxton chairs the public/policy committee, which addresses legislative issues (i.e. Labor Day school start, online tax, etc.).
Council members are encouraged to visit the industry website at www.industry.exploreminnesota.com. This website is the go-to place to learn about ways that you can get involved in tourism promotion and marketing opportunities, research and reports that explain the impact of tourism on the economy, along with trends and facts and figures. It also has the minutes from past Council meetings, Council members contact information, resolutions and future meeting dates.
Minnesota ranks 30th in the country for total tourism budget. Senator Carlson has drafted a bill to support the car rental tax used to fund Explore Minnesota Tourism. Governor’s Office cannot comment until they fully review the bill.
Council members are asked to take topics from the meetings back to their groups/associations for further discussion, and to also bring topics of concern from their associations back to the full Council. Members are encouraged to provide agenda items for future Council meeting; let John Edman or Colleen Tollefson know of future meeting topics.
The issue of ADA compliance for lodging properties to have a pull lift available for each body of water the facility has, was questioned. This needs to be completed by January 13. The message provided to the industry was unclear and the costs associated to comply are horrendous. Grant money is not available. The issue will be brought forward to the Public Policy Committee.
FULL COUNCIL MEETING
Present: Sunny Bhakta, Fred Bobich, Bonnie Carlson, Senator John Carlson, Bill Deef, Randy Gutzmann, Nancy Hanson, Lisa Havelka, Jim Hey, Doug Killian, Dave Langhoff, Bruce Martinson, Terry Mattson, Bill Morrissey, Mark Novotny, Cynthya Porter, Ingrid Schneider, Hank Todd, John Valliere, Julie Wearn
EMT Staff: John Edman, Leann Kispert, Peggy Lindquist, Peggy Nasby, Colleen Tollefson
Guests: Chris Heimbold, Amy Rooker (Little & Company)
Welcome/Introductions: Chair John Edman welcomed everyone to the meeting and asked attendees to introduce themselves and share their favorite Minnesota memory from this summer.
Approval of June 13th Meeting Minutes: Minutes need to be corrected to add David Langhoff in attendance. With that change, all Council members in attendance voted to approve the minutes.
Public Policy Committee Report – Terry Mattson: Some industry representatives met with Governor Dayton on motor vehicle tax on car rental to fund tourism. Governor Dayton wants to support tourism but has reservations that motor vehicle tax on car rental tax designation is still a general fund issue. EMT prepared three funding scenarios, but could only enter one into its budget recommendation. Moving forward on the total dedication of 6.2% motor vehicle tax on car rental was the best option to pursue and to reinforce this message.
Senator Carlson drafted a bill for the dedication of the 6.2% motor vehicle tax on car rental and the increase in match requirement to $3 million each year. Need to encourage bi-partisan support to sign on when this bill is introduced. Will work with state representatives on Council on House version.
Working with communities and businesses to pass and submit their EMT funding resolutions. Would like all resolutions submitted by October 15.
A document has been prepared on how EMT would spend additional dollars, if received.
May want to reach out to car rental companies to let them know of this proposal.
Next steps: Terry Mattson and Brad Jones will work with Governor’s/Lt. Governor’s Office to encourage support.
October 4 at noon: Conference call with committee.
January/early February: Ask communities who have passed resolutions to hold news conference about tourism funding. Will also work on media exposure at tourism conference.
Statewide Branding – Chris Heimbold and Amy Rooker, Little & Company: Received twenty proposals in response to EMT’s Request for Proposals for the Statewide Branding. Little & Company was awarded the contract. Working to determine what is the brand for Minnesota; it is not just a logo, it is a narrative. Findings will be part inspirational, part functional. They have been interviewing various agency commissioners. A copy of the interview questions will be provided to Council.
Little & Company asked the Council –
What is the primary objective/what does success look like?
- Getting additional funding
- Multi-agency partnership
- Consistent and positive image – Minnesota is a great place to live, vacation, leader in the country for education
- One cohesive message like “Pure Michigan” – anyone can take and use it. Keep in mind the there was a lot of $$$ behind this initiative
- Must make sense for both external and internal customers/clients
- Long-range planning
- Agencies in consumer/tourism business
- Holistic planning
- Truly brand Minnesota to the WORLD
- Get all agencies to buy in/see that it’s good for them
- Singular message
- Corporate partners need to assist
- Create an umbrella that a lot more people want to be underneath
- Marketable to international market
- No preconceived brand
What are the hurdles?
- Existing equities
- How does it fit in international, domestic, state, regional markets?
- Agencies themselves
- Viewed as “takeover”
What is the perception of Minnesota?
- Distinct regions – north, south, metro
- Road construction
Additional comments from Council:
- Agriculture is slowing. How is state going to survive without an industry such as tourism?
- Success would be if we have a travel brand, not state agency brand
- Have all agencies giving away same promotion item with Minnesota theme/message
- Need to promote we want customers to “Be our guest”
- Must be open-minded concept
- There IS some overlap within agencies. Must all partner.
- This is why we need to move EMT budget forward. All departments have marketing budgets – need coordination.
- Need to find a way to incorporate professional sports – that is how many consumers recognize Minnesota
- About 12-15 other states are also working on some type of branding project
Marketing Communications Plan – Leann Kispert: FY12 goals were surpassed – site traffic saw over 3.1 million visitors, produced 453,207 leads and hit almost 35,000 Facebook “likes.” Ran promotions during the summer Olympics.
FY13 goals include:
- Continue driving brand awareness
- Achieve site traffic of 2.8M total visits
- Increase mobile site traffic visits to 247,200 annually
- Achieve 4,000 total mobile app downloads
- Obtain 46,250 new e-mail addresses
- Achieve 75% Facebook like growth
- Obtain 125,000 physical addresses
- Continue to grow and leverage partnerships to help meet lead generation and site traffic goals and contribute to partnership match requirements
Will continue “More to Explore” for Spring/Summer campaign with the following “More” themes: More to Try, Rock, Share, Spin, Hold and Catch. Bring Me The News continues to create engagement and perform against traffic goals; will continue this partnership. Facebook ads continue to bring in great results, typically run out of budget in 7-9 days.
Will use the “Dream Trip” list as an engagement tool with consumers and work with bloggers to create content.
Television buy strategy includes increased presence on Cable channels and buying spots through FSN. Radio remains a viable media outlet.
Search engine marketing (SEM) has dramatically increased – clicks are up 110% from May 2011 to May 2012; click through rates are nearly 1000% better than May 2011; average CPC is 38% cheaper than May 2011. Will maintain an aggressive SEM program to achieve highest traffic return and continue to apply SEM to mobile app. Currently maintain a list of 21,000 keywords and 28 ad categories.
2013 Explore Minnesota Co-Opportunities: Co-op opportunities are available to businesses and non-profits. Some of the deadlines are approaching soon. Current opportunities are with:
- Chicago Sun Times
- CJOB Radio
- Leisure Group Travel Magazine Travel Trade
- Meredith Women’s Network
- Midwest Living Explore Minnesota Custom Insert
- TravelPromo E-newsletters
- Twincities.com/Pioneer Press Monthly E-Newsletter
- Winnipeg Free Press
If you have questions on any of these coop programs, contact Lana Sloan (email@example.com) at Explore Minnesota Tourism.
Statewide Tourism Research Updates: Longwoods will be conducting an ROI survey for us, as part of their bigger ROI study. A summer survey was recently completed through SurveyMonkey as part of Tourism’s analysis of summer tourism. The summer survey results was picked up by several media outlets and received good press. Tourism Center completed a Labor Day school study, which also received much press coverage.
Industry and Consumer Web Updates – Peggy Nasby: The new industry website was launched in August and receives approximately 3,500 visits per month. This site is home to the EMT Express newsletter, industry programs and marketing opportunities and research.
EMT continues to contract with BarkleyREI for web development. Tracking codes have been added to most actions, which assists in monitoring performance and will be a valuable tool in ad sales. Referrals to the business websites are strong – a 55% conversion rate.
UserTesting.com conducted testing with twenty individuals to determine how the end-users find what they want on the exploreminnesota.com website. Some of the recurring themes/feedback include: want to see prices, font too small, too much text, amenities too far down the page, “What’s Nearby” map is handy. Users liked the trip ideas/itineraries.
Primary changes to the Listings Page are: streamlined look and feel, expandable description, prominent action buttons, pricing information easier to find, tabbed interface for amenities/map features/reviews, simplified footer, better degradation between paid and fee listings. Will be incorporating Trip Advisor reviews.
Will be adding a “Food & Flavors” section, anticipated launch by Tourism Conference. The dining section will allow geographic and/or category-based searches and filtering. Listings are free. As suggested by Council, will work with Hospitality Minnesota as project moves forward. Sampler categories on this section include: American Fare, Brewpubs & Winery Dining, Ethnic, Fine Dining, Locally grown or Organic Dining and Uniquely Minnesota. It was also suggested that EMT work with Minnesota Restaurant Association to rename the “Fine Dining” section.
Mobile site enhancements include adding “What’s Nearby”, revamping map-it function, update keyword search design, add Google DFP ad units, improved tagging, transition 2012 URL and update sniffer options.
Arrowhead – Terry Mattson:
- Tallships will be returning to Duluth in July 2013. Expecting 11-13 vessels. Sold over 100,000 tickets in 2010 and brought over 250,000 visitors to the area.
- Marketing model is changing. Will work with EPrize on sweepstakes. IRRRB has greatly reduced their investment to market the area.
Northwest and Central – Colleen Tollefson (for Lisa Paxton and Denelle Hilliard):
- Both areas are doing online promotions through the Pioneer Press and twincities.com
- Both areas are putting an emphasis on biking
- Northwest area has seen an increase in Canadian travelers; strong interest in fishing in the area
- Central area promoting golf and boasts six wineries
Metro – Bill Deef:
- 18 partners have combined efforts for promotions through Maddens Media and Midwest Living
- Working with Jean Freidl for a second year. She will produce press releases and story ideas for metro
- Working with Fluency Media on ISEO
- Working with Ingrid/U of M Tourism Center on new Traveler Profile for metro
- Governor’s Fishing Opener was held in Waconia and brought a lot of media attention to the metro area
Southern – Lisa Havelka:
- Southern region producing their annual visitors guide, which is distributed to 100,000 in the Upper Midwest and an additional 55,000 are used as a primary response piece
- Producing print ads and online ads
- SMTA Annual Meeting & Expo will be held September 12-13 in Owatonna
Explore Minnesota Tourism Council: During the last two legislative sessions, EMT has requested a statutory change to expand the Tourism Council. The bill has not passed. The Council would like to see other partners involved and recommends that EMT look at alternative ways to increase the Council membership.
Upcoming Tourism Events:
October 12-13, Governor’s Pheasant Opener in Marshall
November 1-3, Governor’s Deer Opener in Winona
December 11, Explore Minnesota Tourism Council Meeting, location TBD
February 12-13, 2013, Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference in Minneapolis
May 10-11, 2013, Governor’s Fishing Opener, Park Rapids