Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.
Originally published: December 2017
Talking Tourism: 2017 A Year End Review | By Linda Jurek
When I woke this post-holiday morning, I knew one thing for sure – 2017 has chosen a chilly departure. I can’t help but reflect on the year knowing we have accomplished much.
Early in 2017, the Visit Cook County team traveled to the annual Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference. It is always beneficial for us to gather with like minded professionals all working to promote Minnesota as a travel destination. The proof is in the pudding, as demonstrated by our third year winning awards for excellence in Tourism marketing. In 2017, we were the recipient of three industry awards:
- Award of Merit – Lake Superior Storm Festival
- Event of the Year – Lutsen 99er
- Rising Star in Tourism Award – Linda Jurek (so very humbled)
Part of what makes our team so strong is that along with our scheduled marketing and public relations work, we remain ready to promote the unexpected. Who knew a moose rescue story would gain so much interest?! Kjersti Vick, marketing manager, recognized the newsworthyness of this story and pushed it out to all media channels. The organic results were impressive. Over 90 stories were generated and media outlets in over 30 states shared the story bringing the Gunflint Trail and Cook County on to their TV, newspaper and digital screens for well over a week. This earned media resulted in incredible organic reach that is worth over $100K of ad value – for very little hard dollars spent.
But our success is not only luck. We also strategize and watch trends to direct our marketing and public relations outreach. For the third year, we have place an emphasis on celebrating our “dark skies” as one of our vital community assets. In 2017, our dark skies campaign gained some traction generating two major media stories. A front-page story in the Star Tribune as well as an on-air interview with KSTP TV in the Twin Cities. An estimated 500K people watched or read the story about our night sky. The results have been instant as the inquiries to our information center about “tips for viewing the northern lights” have increased dramatically and traffic to the Northern Lights page on our website increased by 22% year over year!
Of course there were the special surprises along the way. The Gunflint Trail Association hit a homerun by hosting the largest blueberry contest which brought visitors and locals to the blueberry weigh stations coveting the prizes. The Cook County Chamber’s Downtown Business Coalition continues to do great work. Grant Marais Area Tourism and Visit Cook County are able to partner with these folks and support many local events.
I work with an incredible team. In May, I calmly stated that we received approval to rebuild our website. There were a few raised eyebrows when I also informed the crew that we would accomplish this in three short months while simultaneously completing the visitor guide content. (Incidentally, the visitor guide is very popular and we distributed over 11,000 last year.) If you haven’t taken time to check out the website, please do so. The photography is stunning!
In terms of lodging tax collection, we’ve leveled off a bit but continue to see growth. For those of you that review the lodging tax report, remember to look at the apples to apples to comparison. I’ve found that many folks compare last year’s monthly totals to the current. There are many variables which affect these totals and the apples to apples compute a much truer reflection.
On behalf of Visit Cook County, Happy New Year! Please stop by for a visit. The door is always open and the coffee pot on.
Cook County News Herald by Linda Jurek, executive director at Visit Cook County MN Linda Jurek email@example.com