Talking Tourism: Embracing resilience, post-summer stampede | by Linda Jurek

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: October 2017

Talking Tourism: Embracing resilience, post-summer stampede | by Linda Jurek

As described by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, the tipping point is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”. As we approach the end of October, many of us have reached our own personal tipping point. We’ve seen streaming lines of traffic making their first or possibly their one hundredth trip to the North Shore, festivals most weekends during July, August, and September, thousands of donuts and craft beers served, and the exit of our summer workforce far too early. Need I say more? Summer is our high season and much of our workforce is tired. We long for the quiet days. Our personal Hygge.

Having grown up here in the 60s and 70s, I vividly remember the excitement of summer. I anticipated the return of summer friends and the multitude of new faces. Although I would never have described my summer employment as working in the hospitality industry, that’s what I did. I washed dishes at the Birch Terrace, cleaned rooms at the Seawall,  stocked the shoe department at Humphrey’s, picked rocks at Lutsen Mountains to earn my ski pass and waited tables at the Harbor Inn.  There were over 80 students in my graduating class; a community workforce right in the high school.

When I arrived back in Cook County during the summer of 2013, my role seemed rather straight forward. I grew up here. I visited often and love northeastern Minnesota. Building the shoulder seasons and drawing visitors to this place seemed like a simple and natural thing to do. Even though Visit Cook County was relatively new in formation, the guidance received by a seasoned board of directors representing our entire county made the task less daunting.

Before returning to Cook County, I had traveled the Upper Peninsula of Michigan many times. I noticed that many abandoned hotels and restaurants dotted the roadway on my journey. These once thriving towns and businesses were reduced down to relics of days gone by.  I knew I didn’t want to see that happen here.

What have I learned? It is complicated. Our economy is driven by tourism. It was in the 70s and remains much the same today. We are so incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by the Superior National Forest, an international border and the greatest of the great – Lake Superior. Where 95% of the land in Cook County is federal or state land, we have an advantage of space and preservation built into our foundation. What has changed is the tipping point. We are now faced with the need to protect our J1 and H2B work programs. Our unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the state and the ebb and flow of our tourism economy more apparent than ever. I am an optimist. We will persevere if we work together to continue building our community and economy. Thank You for all of your hard work this summer and fall season!

So tired business owner, happy donut eater, and weary hospitality industry pro. Help us celebrate by joining us on October 24th, at the Summit Chalet at Lutsen Mountains for the 8th annual Fall Gala hosted by the Cook County Chamber and Visit Cook County. It is an evening of laughter, food and camaraderie. Pre-registration is recommended at by Sunday, October 22 but walk-ins are welcome.

Cook County News Herald by Linda Jurek, executive director at Visit Cook County MN Linda Jurek