Talking Tourism: Drawing visitors in, one registration at a time | by Katie Krantz

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: August 2017

Talking Tourism: Drawing visitors in, one registration at a time | by Katie Krantz

At Visit Cook County, we continually strategize on new ways to draw visitors to our area during slower times. We’ve generated ideas like waterfalls, storm season, hygge and most recently, we’ve marketed Cook County as a training ground. Many of these marketing campaigns are bolstered by an event component. Event marketing can be an effective way to advertise visiting our area during a certain time period. For example, Storm Festival occurs during the 2nd weekend in November. However, we make sure to let visitors know that if they can’t visit during the event weekend, they can likely enjoy storms anytime throughout the month of November. Even if they don’t come this year, they now realize that November is a great time to experience the power of a Lake Superior storm.

Events are multi-purpose when it comes to advertising and public relations. A great example (which you are probably familiar with) is the Lutsen 99er. The Lutsen 99er, an ultra-marathon mountain bike race, grew from 80 participants in 2011 to 1800 in 2017 and is a proven economic booster. According to a study done by the University of Minnesota, the average bicycle event visitor spends $121.20 per day, and 93.4% dine out while they are here. The Lutsen 99er weekend is profitable and helps our local businesses remain prosperous in that early part of summer.

But that’s not all the Lutsen 99er does for our area. That one weekend in June showcases Cook County biking trails as a year-round attraction. It exposes Lutsen Mountains as not just a winter ski resort, but a summer destination as well as a summer destination while at the same time enticing visitors to come back for a winter experience as well.  It flaunts our big, beautiful lake and our national forest. You can bet that the Visit Cook County team is at the Lutsen 99er every year making sure the participants know all this area has to offer in the winter, spring, summer and fall.

Visit Cook County also worked with the event coordinator for the 99er to bring a new event to Cook County, the Norpine Fat Bike Classic. This event brought 200 fat tire bikers and their families to the area in January. Coming full circle, Visit Cook County worked with the Forest Service, DNR and the Norpine Trail Association supporting opening the trail to fat tire biking all winter long.

Cook County is unique in its ability to collect a 1% lodging tax which helps promote and fund events. We’ve also spoken to many event planners that are surprised to learn that the team at Visit Cook County is here to help their event succeed. While it might seems like events are a one-time opportunity to bring visitors to the area, we must remember the awareness that is built can have a year-round economic impact. Any time we can get a new visitor to fall in love with our area, the ROI is significant. Events are a marketing tool, and Visit Cook County is capitalizing on that.

Cook County News Herald by Katie Krantz, event resource manager at Visit Cook County MN Katie Krantz