Visit Cook County is a strong collaboration of the existing Cook County, Minnesota community tourism associations, the Cook County Events and Visitors Bureau and the voluntary members of the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Ojibwe. The organizations joined because they’re stronger together – there is more buying power and reach with combined revenues.
The tourism associations that make up Visit Cook County are:
- Gunflint Trail Association (GTA)
- Lutsen-Tofte-Schroeder Tourism Association (LTTA)
- Grand Marais Area Tourism Association (GMATA)
These three associations have boards of directors and are funded by the collection of a 3% lodging tax in their communities.
The 3% lodging tax has defined statutory limitations on how it can be spent, simply put: to be spent on destination marketing. These limits prevented funding for visitor experiences and lures such as festival and event hosting. To address this need, the associations agreed to an additional 1% to the lodging tax collection in 2007-2008 to create the Cook County Events and Visitors Bureau, (CCEVB). This tax is “voluntary” for non-lodging businesses, they are allowed to charge a 1% minimum to 3% maximum tax. Lutsen Mountains Alpine operations, for example, elected to collect a 3% tax on lift tickets, equipment rentals, entertainment, and restaurant sales. This corporation also participates in the lodging tax collection at their Eagle Ridge Resort.
All collected taxes are paid to the County Auditor who in turn handles the administration and distribution of revenue. The 1% CCEVB funds are allocated to assist existing community sponsored events, Visit Cook County events as well as enhancements to visitor experiences such as music, nature programs, access to information on an event calendar that is printed and online.
Who decides how these funds are spent or allocated?
All the tourism associations continue with full boards of directors and meetings. Each association has representation on the Visit Cook County board of directors. Once a year during the annual budget process, each association allocates the way they want their 1% funds spent.
The number of Visit Cook County board representatives correspond to the size of their communities’ tax collection.