Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.
Originally published: August 2020
Talking Tourism: Business Hours & Free Website Listings by Linda Jurek
It’s hard to believe that just five months ago, our corner of Minnesota was closed. Doors were shut; we transitioned quickly to remote work, cut budgets, and furloughed employees. Days were spent navigating complex loan applications, analyzing business structures, and meeting with local leaders to discuss what to do next as a community. While tourism experts predicted that travelers would choose destinations like ours, close to home and outdoors, Visit Cook County was busy trying to prepare for an unpredictable future of summer tourism. For all the reasons we love our corner of Minnesota, so do many others, but what would this look like in the world of 2020? Our VCC team and board of directors went to task, and dove headfirst into strategically re-aligning our work with the needs of our community.
COVID RESOURCES FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES
Visit Cook County did not escape budget cuts. In fact, we shrank our summer marketing budget by 80% and refocused our energy and resources on how to prepare to reopen our community carefully and strategically–always keeping the safety of our community as a top priority and top of mind. The COVID Resources page on our website shows the evolution of marketing during a pandemic and is chock-full of information and tools for local business owners, including zoom backgrounds, Facebook profile frames, a Visitor’s Pledge, Best Practice Guide, marketing materials (including the beloved “One Moose Apart” campaign) and a whole lot more. Visit Cook County has also made significant investments in providing free face coverings for the public, a vital and important part of how to keep the community safe during this time.
TRUSTED SOURCE OF INFORMATION FOR VISITORS
For several years, Visit Cook County has monitored and publicized retail and dining hours as well as weekend lodging availability on our website. This summer, this work continued and, in many cases, has doubled or tripled as businesses respond to staffing shortages and new covid-19 protocols. While planning their visit north, visitors are finding this information extremely useful, and user traffic to our site reflects it. As demand increased, we felt it was important to make this information the most user-friendly and engaging experience possible. A new interface that is mobile-compatible has been updated on our site. We will be distributing postcards and posters to local businesses that have an easily scannable QR code for quick access to local hours for both dining and retail. Users can also go to the home page of visitcookcounty.com and click on the banner “FIND UPDATED HOURS.”
FREE WEBSITE LISTINGS
What started as a conversation to help our local artists and musicians generate income during this time has evolved into much more. Due to the incredible efforts and economic hardships of 2020, Visit Cook County wants to offer all local businesses the opportunity to list FOR FREE on our website for one full year. We are hoping that this opportunity for a FREE Visit Cook County listing will help lodging, local services, guides, dining, retail, artists, and musicians expand their exposure to visitors. And that visitcookcounty.com will continue to be the most comprehensive local business list in our community.
If you would like to get your business listed, contact Maggie Barnard, Communications Manager firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the leaves lose their luster and cool fall mornings feel like they are right around the corner, it’s a good time to take a deep breath and acknowledge all that we’ve accomplished as a community during these strange and hard times. Summer of 2020, with all of its perplexities will soon be in the books. While it has been challenging at times, we’ve also seen the strength and adaptability of our community. We are a place that watches out for one and other, and strives to celebrate diversity. We are a place that works together to overcome unforeseen obstacles. Visit Cook County thanks each and every one of you for navigating these unprecedented times with us. As the season changes, we are looking to the future more than ever, and are excited to continue to be an important resource for the community we serve and hold in the highest of esteem.
Be safe, stay adventurous, and wear a mask.
Linda Jurek, Executive Director – Visit Cook County
Visit Cook County’s One Moose Apart Campaign is Raising Money for Local Residents.
Grand Marais, Minn. (August 4, 2020) – Since launching the One Moose Apart campaign in March, Visit Cook County has received an outpouring of support from visitors and locals alike who appreciate the playful take on social distancing.
“We received numerous requests for a t-shirt with the One Moose Apart artwork, so we decided to make one!” said Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County.
“Initially, we were anticipating selling only approximately 50 shirts. However, after only 7 days, we have far exceeded that number!”continued Jurek. In fact, as of Tuesday, August 4th, the campaign recorded 286 supporters and over $4,237 raised. The campaign and t-shirt sales are set to end on August 11th, 2020, with a revised goal of $6,000.
With each purchase, supporters are given the opportunity to post a comment about why they are choosing to contribute to this campaign. Here are a few testimonials:
“Cook County is a special place with incredible people. I want to give back for all the memories they’ve given me” – Brianna Lason
“We just LOVE Cook County and hope that everyone there stays healthy and safe!” – Sharon A Ostlie
“We camp on the Gunflint Trail several times every year, made Cook County our honeymoon destination 17 years ago, and have friends that own a local business in Grand Marais. I love the “One Moose Apart” image and message.” – Amanda G Lee
Even local business owners are proud to support the campaign:
“Because we love Cook County and we want to help support our neighbors through this difficult time!” – Kim Corliss, co-owner of North Shore Winery.
All proceeds from the t-shirt sales will be donated to the Cook County Coronavirus Relief Fund which will go towards supporting local families, community members and businesses impacted by Covid-19. Visit Cook County is partnering with the Cook County Chamber to identify which entities to distribute funds to.
“The success of campaigns like this really demonstrate the caliber and nature of our community – both near and far. By working together, we can get through this pandemic stronger than before” Jurek added.
Another newly launched campaign that exemplifies community strength is the SISU Coffee Project. A partnership between three local businesses (Fika Coffee, Java Moose and Hoaglund Designs) to raise funds to support the livelihoods and everyday needs of the local community.
In addition to the One Moose Apart Campaign, Visit Cook County is providing complimentary face coverings to visitors in the area and is promoting safe and responsible visitation. Learn more about what Cook County businesses are doing during Covid-19 to welcome visitors and keep residents safe by visiting the website.
About Visit Cook County
Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”. Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #donorthmn, Twitter @CookCoVisitors, Facebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.
Link to the Campaign: https://www.customink.com/fundraising/visitcookcounty
Dropbox folder of Photos & Graphics of the One Moose Apart campaign materials: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/g7r23pq1ma4ugcp/AAC_6f4JSXZdke2J8csFIVi7a?dl=0Requests for Interview Contact: Kjersti Vick | phone: 218-387-2788 ext. 103 | email: email@example.com