Explore Minnesota Tourism Council Meeting Minutes, March 13, 2018

Jun 26, 2018

Explore Minnesota Tourism Council Meeting
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Explore Minnesota
121 7th Place East, 360 Metro Square, St. Paul

Present: Carolyn Aarsvold, Megan Christianson, Kevin Cooper, Chuck Dougherty, Bob Herman, Bud Johnston, Brad Jones, Doug Killian, Paul Larsen, Nicholas Leonard, Terry Mattson, Cynthia Messer, Senator Carrie Ruud, John Valliere, Danyl Vavreck, Cindy Wannarka

Guests: Luci Botzek, Nancy Hanson, Allison Kuznia, Dan McElroy, Ryan Olson, Sarah Psick, Anna Tanski, Jackson (student shadowing Senator Ruud)

Staff: John Edman, Beth Helle, Leann Kispert, Peggy Lindquist, Mike Meyer, John Schultz, Erica Wacker

Welcome/Introductions: Chair John Edman welcomed everyone to the meeting and asked attendees to introduce themselves. 

Minutes from the December meeting were introduced. John Valliere motioned to approve the minutes from the December meeting; motion seconded by Doug Killian. All members in attendance voted to approve the minutes as submitted.


Tourism Conference Recap – Beth Helle: The 2018 Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference was held March 6-7 in Mankato. Approximately 315 registered. We saw several changes this year:

  • We had a sponsor for the Conference bags and lanyards
  • Had nationally-recognized keynote speakers
  • Awards banquet was shortened. (Note: next year, will plan to show assets from winners)
  • Flash drives distributed to attendees. Items on flash drive include grant program, annual report
  • Tourism Conference app used this year. Approximately half of the attendees downloaded
  • We were able to solicit real time feedback on sessions
  • Great Debate

The 2019 Tourism Conference will be held the first week of February or the first week of March and will be in the metro area.

Comments from the Council:

  • Changes were great
  • Great energy
  • Is a keynote speaker needed at the end of the conference? Is the second day lunch needed? Many attendees have a long drive and would prefer to hit the road earlier
  • Is it possible to pack everything into one day and end with the award ceremony?
  • Attendees want more collaboration time

At this time, the Minnesota Tourism Growth Coalition presented Senator Carrie Ruud with the “2017 Tourism Leadership” award. 

Public Policy Committee – Brad Jones: The 2018 legislative session is underway. There have many several community days organized. Hospitality Day was held March 12. Tourism industry has been able to articulate events funding. Not a lot of state issues this session, using it as an opportunity to thank legislators for their support of the tourism industry.

Hearings will be held March 14 in both the House and Senate.

CMR Day on the Hill is March 13 and 14. Issues they are addressing are: rural broadband, service animals, resort building materials, promotion of EMT, Labor Day school start, Department of Revenue/property tax exemption (Class 1C), DNR, Department of Labor on youth employees, VRBO (watching Douglas County licensing). Megan Christianson provided some background information on Itasca County with VRBOs. The county is taking action on VRBOs. Ottertail County is regulating through the Health Department. Air DNA can track VRBOs and see how much revenue they have made. Another site is AirBNBwatch.org.

Senator Ruud added the service dog legislation is an important topic this session and affects tourism industry/properties.

Hospitality Minnesota is also following the Department of Revenue policy bill which addresses online travel agencies and inclusion of all taxes.

Minnesota Tourism Growth Coalition thanked Sarah Psick for her continued support for the industry.

Destination Capitol Hill will be held March 21-22 in Washington DC. John Edman, Paul Larsen, Doug Killian, Anna Tanski, Brad Jones and Dave Looby will represent Minnesota and meet with our congressional delegation. Agenda items include visa waiver, TSA and funding for travel infrastructure.

The House will turn over next year so it is important to talk to candidates right now about tourism. Fact sheets/talking points are available at mntourism.net.

Explore Minnesota must have their budget proposal for the next biennium prepared by August. Council and industry input is important.

Events Program Update – Beth Helle: The first year of the events grant was funded at $673,000. All funding was used - in both metro and greater Minnesota. The program is now funded at $900,000 and almost all funding is spoken for ($200,000 remains). Funds are available for bids or for operations funding. Legislators should be made aware of how both small and large communities are benefitting from this program.

Super Bowl LII Results – Erica Wacker and John Schultz: The Super Bowl Host Committee expects to have economic impact results of Super Bowl LII available in late April. Smith Travel Research will have lodging impact numbers in late March. Airbnb reports that over 7000 rooms were booked through them.

Over 1.5 billion media impressions from Super Bowl, which was the total impressions Explore Minnesota had during the entire year in 2016.

‘SOTA POP: Explore Minnesota was represented at Super Bowl LIVE on Nicollet Mall with its ‘SOTA POP display. This was a way to show attendees that there is more to Minnesota than cold, through interactive displays. 35,882 visitors went through the display. #OnlyinMN was used 13,665 times throughout the 10 days. Over 7,500 social followers gained across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter throughout the event.

Some of the Super Bowl Live numbers available include:

  • 1,055,000 attendees at Super Bowl LIVE
  • 235,000 attendees at Super Bowl LIVE on Saturday, February 3 (largest one day attendance)
  • 35,969 references to Bold North on Twitter during the ten-day festival
  • 14,073 Instagram posts mentioning the Bold North during the ten-day festival
  • 62,434 likes on Facebook for post mentioning the Bold North during the ten-day festival
  • $2 billion earned media coverage
  • 5,800 record number of credentialed media members for Super Bowl LII
  • 25 different countries represented by the media at Super Bowl LII
  • $5.5 million invested in community organizations across the state during Minnesota Super Bowl Legacy Fund 52 Weeks of Giving campaign to improve health and wellness for kids
  • 1.4 million visitors to Mall of America, site of the NFL Fan Gallery, during the ten-day festival
  • 61,000 record-breaking number of passengers at MSP International Airport on Monday, Feb. 5

Council comments:
Ottertail County was mentioned in Sports Illustrated as host for the world’s largest Super Bowl party on ice.

Lakeville CVB hosted eight journalists two weeks prior to event.

Winter/Spring Summer Marketing – Leann Kispert: Winter advertising focused on drive markets. Television spots ran in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Omaha and Kansas City. As Minnesota ranks high for Olympics viewership, EMT did an Olympics sponsorship with KARE 11. Winter ads focused on beautiful winter photography. Added a successful sweepstakes promotion with Minnesota Theaters in November and again in March. Continued partnership with Minnesota Ski Association that ran on all four local television stations, movie theaters and light rail stations. Prizes were awarded to 32 winners throughout the sweepstakes.

Spring/Summer 2018: The Spring/Summer campaign will begin April 2 (which is tied to baseball opener). However, the spring/summer TV spot actually debuted during the Super Bowl. This ad campaign will focus on cultural explorers and spontaneous adventurers and will continue to drive action in core markets and increase awareness in growth markets. Will continue partnership with FSN and the Minnesota Twins to align the brand with a passionate and engaged fan base. New this summer will be advertising on OTT devices, which refers to content accessed via the internet without a television services provider.

Council comments:

  • Wonderful work
  • Is there a way to reach out to Olympians (curlers, paraolympian, skiers) to support winter campaign next year
  • International travelers are becoming interested in Minnesota. Local areas need to create tours.


Ad Agency and Web Audit RFP – John Edman: Ad Agency RFP: Explore Minnesota is required by law to go through the RFP process every five years. The bid is currently out to the market. John Schultz is the contact and is providing answers to questions. Selection committee will consist of five EMT staff members and four regional representatives. Expect to have decision in May.

Web audit: Explore Minnesota will work with an independent third party to review our website. Proposals will be sent to selection team this week. Expect to have process completed in May or June.

Bold North Brand – John Edman: The Bold North brand was used during Super Bowl LII and there has been a lot of interest from the consumer to continue marketing Minnesota as “the Bold North.” We need to determine if this brand would work for all regions, does it work for all seasons? It is currently trademarked by the Super Bowl Host Committee.

Council comments:

  • Worried about national perception. Minnesota is already seen as cold state.
  • DNR completed a study of why people don’t camp. 24% of respondents said they do not camp because fear of wildlife. These perceptions are real.
  • Travelers do not want to travel here in winter.
  • #Onlyinmn is very well branded. Don’t lose that.
  • Can see Bold North working in both winter and summer. It is a seasonal theme and can be embraced in every corner of the state.
  • Confident it can be used in all four seasons. Likes the brand. However, we lose the word “Minnesota” in it.
  • Use it selectively. Use the word Bold with other words such as Bold Spirit, Bold Adventure, Bold Fun.
  • Bold North promotes a sense of pride. Can be used throughout the year.
  • Can we get it trademarked? John Edman has asked and the Host Committee is considering.
  • Two ad agencies ago, our ad campaign was so generic and could be used by any Midwest state. Sees the same issue with “Bold North.” Too generic and could be used by any Midwestern/Northern state.

Industry Website Survey – Beth Helle:  Explore Minnesota is also evaluating the industry site. Working to improve search capabilities, organization of it. It is useful and valuable but needs to be improved. Need to determine what information belongs to Explore Minnesota. Projected completion timeframe of project is fourth quarter. Beth is leading the project.

Council comments:

  • Is there a way industry can provide input during the process / work with industry segment before rolling out?
  • Share best practices, best campaigns
  • Suggested that we do educational webinars. Explore Minnesota already does, so need to make sure industry is aware.
  • Helpful when EMT staff remind industry to update their listing information
  • Entire website must be accessible on mobile device, as that is how consumers access the web


Brand USA/International Efforts – John Edman and Beth Helle: John Edman was appointed to Brand USA under the Obama administration and the term expired at the end of December. John was reappointed to the Board by US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. This appointment will continue for the next three years. Minnesota has a letter of agreement with Brand USA.

Brand USA has been very beneficial to Minnesota in our international marketing efforts. They have produced films on national parks, music and innovation. They are also assisting us in creating a :90 Minnesota “sizzle” video.

Explore Minnesota is in the process of hiring an international communications person. Hope to have someone in place by May 1 (prior to IPW).

Fishing Opener – Beth Helle: Willmar Lakes area is host to the 71st Governor’s Fishing Opener, May 10-13.

We are actively seeking a community to host the 2019 Fishing Opener. We are looking to work with communities to fit to their area and make the bidding process accessible to communities of all sizes. May do a press release or some type of communication to chambers and CVBs to let them know there are changes coming. There is a need to manage expectations of this event.

Communications Tools – Erica Wacker: The cereal box has been updated and is available for distribution.

The 2017 ROI information is presented as a one-page info graphic sheet. It can be downloaded from the industry site.

The Public Policy Committee commented that some type of communication tool is needed at the local level – show in a way that is meaningful to local government officials. Industry needs to be speaking to local rotaries and other local meetings.

Summer Council Meeting: The next Council meeting will be held June 14. The meeting will begin the night before with a social gathering and the meeting will be held the morning of June 14. Will look at meeting in Duluth. Agenda would include assessment of goals and develop strategy for future funding.


Future Meeting Dates:
Wednesday/Thursday - June 13/14
Wednesday, September 12
Thursday, December 6