Travel News: Land of Lakes … and Snow

So, dear traveler, or should we say at this stage travel planner, at home in what is quite likely a warmer locale, at the ready to make arrangements for your next exciting and rewarding vacation, I pose this question: What do you think of when you hear the word Minnesota?

For those of us who call it home, Minnesota means many things: outdoors, lakes, friendly people. But often what we think about ourselves can be quite different from what visitors think about the state. To learn if there were any gaps, Explore Minnesota recently commissioned a study by the global market research firm Ipsos Reid to find the answer. Its findings were released late last month.

Minnesota snowboarder

Photo by Todd Buchanan

“It is interesting. How we view ourselves is not necessarily the same as others,” says Ingrid Schneider, director of the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, “so I think we have to adapt and tend to external viewpoints. Our image is very important for the hospitality industry.”

Interestingly, the vantage points of host and guest aren’t that far off; the most appealing parts of our state are also attractive to would-be visitors. “Perceptions center around Minnesota’s natural beauty, including its lakes, rivers and outdoor activities,” the study found. Secondarily, the state is known to consumers for its “wholesome character.” Nearly 90 percent associated positive descriptions to Minnesota’s personality. I suppose that is how we’ve come to earn our “Minnesota Nice” moniker.

The largest guest perception of Minnesota centers on water. Echoed in terms of brand recognition, the study also found that the long-used slogan “Land of 10,000 Lakes” remains the most recognized motto, easily beating out many more recent taglines used to promote the state. But the further visitors live from Minnesota, the less they associate the state with water and the more they associate it with the second-most recognized attribute: weather. Cold, snow and winter to put a finer point on it. By contrast, Minnesota residents are more likely to think of its vibrant and urban cities. Again, the further one lives from the state the less likely they are to hold such a perception.

But I think our climate is part of the package. Minnesota’s strongest perceptions by far were associated with its “great outdoor activities,” its parks and trails, its stunning and its “first-rate hunting and fishing,” according to the survey’s findings. All made better by four distinct seasons.

I think it’s high time we embrace our white winters and wear our down-filled outerwear as a badge of honor. So the next time someone asks me if it snows in Minnesota, I am going to say: You bet it does. But we know a good thing when we see it. Unlike other residents in wintry climates, we don’t go inside to hibernate until spring. Our new slogan? In Minnesota, the snow lasts longer!