Talking Tourism: What does Visit Cook County do? | By Linda Jurek

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: April 2017

Talking Tourism: What does Visit Cook County do? | By Linda Jurek

Have you ever found yourself wondering what does Visit Cook County do?  Where do they get their financial support for all this marketing?  Or maybe you’ve wondered, who is this who is responsible for attracting all of these visitors to our town causing such an economic boom. Welcome to Talking Tourism, a new monthly article aimed at providing insight into our organization and the impact of tourism in Cook County written for the Cook County News Herald.

As the executive director for Visit Cook County, I am pleased to be tasked with our first segment.  You can expect to hear from other members of the Visit Cook County team as well as marketing partners and board members.  We hope to provide a clearer picture of our organization, its structure, and our goals.

Because industry jargon, acronyms plague our business. We are trying to demystify who is VCC (formerly known as CCVB or CCEVB). Here is a short list of what we are, what we are not and how closely we are related to some our sister organizations.

  • We ARE a destination marketing organization. Our mission is to build brand recognition of the region and increase lodging tax dollars.
  • We are NOT a chamber of commerce. We DO support local tourism business but are not a policy driven organization.
  • We are NOT a part of county government. We are an independent 501(c) 6 not-for-profit organization that is governed by a board of directors that derives from the local lodging associations.
  • We are NOT the Economic Development Authority (EDA). The EDA is tasked with helping to diversify the economy by assisting in businesses development and workforce sustainability issues.

Nearly everything is impacted by tourism and when the leaves drop from the trees and many want to lock the gate at the county line, we must realize that our economy is 85% tourism based.  That has not changed is significantly for many years.  The allure of our area remains imbedded in the hearts of many.

Like I previously stated, Visit Cook County is a destination marketing organization (DMO).  Originally, founded as the Cook County Events and Visitors Bureau (CCEVB) we transitioned to Cook County Visitors Bureau (CCVB), neither of those titles accurately described who we were until we became VISIT Cook County – the regional DMO.  Not every DMO is a convention and visitor bureau (CVB) as is the case with Cook County.  Because we do not have large meeting facilities, we do not focus our marketing efforts on bringing large conventions to our corner of the state.

How are we supported?  Lodging properties in the Cook County lodging tax district (from Schroeder to Grand Portage) are required by Minnesota State statute to collect lodging tax for any short-term nightly rental. This includes hotels and resorts but also independent VRBO’s, canoe outfitters and B&B’s.  We are required to have the lodging tax collections be processed by the auditor’s office and the amount of tax collected by each property is confidential.  The lodging properties select their payment schedule (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, etc.) We also offer marketing opportunities via our website, visitor guide, and information center that any local business is welcome to participate in. What do we do the dollars collected?  We market to potential visitors!!

We continue to hone our skills and while we do partner with a marketing agency and media relations firm, we know how important it is for our community to embrace what we do.  More importantly, we need to love our visitors.  They are the bread and butter for many.

Cook County News Herald by Linda Jurek