2015 was a great year for Explore Minnesota, and the state's tourism industry as a whole. Lodging properties had their best summer since 2008, new businesses popped up everywhere, and events drew large crowds.
In the second year of the popular #OnlyinMN campaign, we generated 3.2 million trips to Minnesota and more than $337 million in traveler spending. We engaged hundreds of thousands of people through social media, more than ever before. And we made a big splash in cities like Chicago and Denver with cutting-edge PR and advertising efforts.
On top of all this, we reached an all-time record private sector match of $9 million to further our marketing reach. Our co-ops and partnerships grew to new heights.
Internationally, Minnesota continued to grow as a global destination. We worked with you, with multi-state groups and with Brand USA to promote state tourism to markets from Mexico to Canada to the U.K. Last year was my first year as a member of the Brand USA board, and it has been amazing to see the opportunities to market Minnesota in ways we cannot do alone.
We continued our group tour efforts, substantially increased our public relations, and engaged with millions of consumers through welcome centers, at trade shows and online, with a record number of visitors to our website.
As successful as these efforts were, we want to be even better in 2016 and beyond. We held listening sessions throughout Minnesota to hear from all of you, and worked with staff and our Tourism Council on a new two-year strategic plan, which you can view here.
The following 2015 Annual Report gives you a very quick look back at some of the things we accomplished this past year. Take a look and let us know what you think.
Thank you for all of your hard work this past year bringing both new and returning travelers to our great state and ensuring they leave with smiles on their faces. Minnesota would not be the amazing destination that it is without you.
Here's to another great year ahead!
John F. Edman, Director
Tourism is an important part of a small town economy, especially one like Granite Falls. Explore Minnesota and Southern Minnesota Tourism Association provide state and area wide promotions of tourism. Funded by our tax dollars, these organizations also provide cooperative advertising opportunities for businesses and help with advice for tourism organizations and businesses. The following letter was written by John F. Edman, Director of Explore Minnesota. The letter is a great summary of everything Explore Minnesota has done in the past year.
To become more involved with this outstanding organization or to learn more check out Explore Minnesota. You can make a difference in your community by attending the next meeting of the Southern Minnesota Tourism Association on May 12 here in Granite Falls, hosted by the Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.
Eleven Signs a City will Succeed- this article in the Atlantic caught my eye and I realized Granite Falls has or is planning for most of these. This same article was being discussed on MPR last week. I've included the list and some of the editorial in quotes, along with my own comments.
"This article appears in the March print edition alongside the cover story, “Can America Put Itself Back Together?”—a summation of James and Deb Fallows’ 54,000-mile journey around America in a single-engine plane. More dispatches from their ongoing reporting trip can be found here.
1. Divisive national politics seem a distant concern.
2. You can pick out the local patriots. A standard question we’d ask soon after arrival was “Who makes this town go?” The answers varied widely. Sometimes it was a mayor or a city-council member. Sometimes it was a local business titan or real-estate developer."
Ask yourself, who are Granite Falls' local patriots? How can I become one?
3. “Public-private partnerships” are real. In successful towns, people can point to something specific and say, This is what a partnership means."
4. People know the civic story. America has a “story,” which everyone understands even if only to say it’s a myth or a lie. "
Granite Falls has the cooperative story and we all know the founding story of Henry Hill.
5. They have a downtown. This seems obvious, but it is probably the quickest single marker of the condition of a town. "
I love this one!
6. They are near a research university. Research universities have become the modern counterparts to a natural harbor or a river confluence."
7. They have, and care about, a community college. Not every city can have a research university. Any ambitious one can have a community college."
Let's support MN West in any way we can! Encourage our students to consider our local community college.
8. They have unusual schools. Early in our stay, we would ask “what was the most distinctive school to visit at the K–12 level."
9. They make themselves open. The anti-immigrant passion that has inflamed this election cycle was not something people expressed in most of the cities we visited."
10. They have big plans. Cities still make plans, because they can do things." Plans for the whitewater park is a big plan and we just finished a big flood mitigation plan.
11. They have craft breweries. One final marker, perhaps the most reliable: A city on the way back will have one or more craft breweries, and probably some small distilleries too. "
The most reliable? Let’s get our cooperative brewery open!