More to Explore

Earlier this week, leaders from across Minnesota’s tourism community gathered in Rochester, Minn., to talk about the latest trends, share ideas, and network with their fellow professionals in an effort to promote our state’s rich tourism industry. It was a strong showing, with increasing attendance reflecting an increased optimism about what the future might hold.

As much as it sounds like a cliché, we certainly live in transformative times. Not only in terms of technology, but our culture is changing both economically and demographically as well. One keynote speaker’s statistic hit on all three points when he said that students starting college in 2012 will be among the first to have lived their entire lives with the Internet. How we learn, what we think about, and how we interact among friends (and follow their recommendations on where to travel) has all fundamentally changed over just a few short years. Just when we’ve become accustomed to websites and email, social networking and mobile apps have opened new marketing avenues for hotels, attractions, and other hospitality professionals to reach new customers.

Explore MinnesotaEric Husband, group creative director at Colle + McVoy, worked with Explore Minnesota last year to develop the well-received More to Explore theme for last year’s advertising campaign, which not only included the fun television commercials but spread out to similarly themed radio, print, and online spots as well. Overall, the campaign increased traffic to Explore Minnesota’s website by nine percent last year. Yet, in keeping with the developing technology, Colle + McVoy is helping Explore Minnesota create new buzz using social media. Two weeks ago, together they launched a new Facebook game called Spin to Win, which offers participants a chance to win travel deals. Already the game has generated more than 32,000 entries.

Last week, Explore Minnesota also launched a beta version of a new mobile app called Active. The simple application uses geo-location technology to find activities nearby in five categories: birding/wildlife, dog sledding, ice fishing, skiing, and snowmobiling. Find deals and create your own lists of favorite outings. For now, the application focuses on winter outdoor activities, but its simple user interface and functionality provide a platform on which to build in the future.

The recent economic downturn hit tourism business across the country. But with Colle + McVoy’s help (along with professionals at BarkleyREI, who helped create the mobile app along with improvements to the agency’s website), Explore Minnesota hopes to gather 2.6 million site visitors a year, and generate more than 260,000 inquiries about travel services from around the world. Already, tourism accounts for $11.3 billion in gross sales. The goal is to hit $20 billion by 2020. With such creative promotions and services, not to mention the wonderful Minnesota attractions and venues that sell themselves, I think we have a great chance to get there.

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