First of all, yes, that is a gigantic Paul Bunyan on the screen. Paul helped John Edman, Minnesota Tourism Director, lead a report on Tourism in Minnesota during the Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference. Christine Fruechte, CEO of Colle+McVoy and Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA joined Paul and John for the presentation.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference in Bemidji Feb. 1-3. I wanted to learn more about how Minnesota promotes tourism, and bring home some useful information that we can use to help our clients.

This was the first time I attended a conference with Maly Marketing where I didn’t have to man a booth and be there first thing in the morning to hand out coffee. I wasn’t going to complain about that.

Here are a few takeaways from my short time in Minnesota:

– When you’re in Bemidji, the home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, flannel is totally acceptable, in fact, it’s encouraged.

– If there’s a conference in Bemidji, you can expect an interactive Paul Bunyan to help lead a presentation on the Minnesota tourism industry

– Minnesota’s goal is to make tourism a $20 billion industry by 2020. In 2014, the tourism industry produced $13.6 billion worth of sales.

– One thing that stood out to me is that Minnesota tourism really does take place over all four seasons. Looking at Traveler Expenditures per season, 37% take place in the summer (June-August), 25% in the fall (September-November), 24% in winter (December-March), and 14% in spring (April-May)

– Minnesota is divided into 5 tourism regions: Northwest, Central, Southern, Northeast and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

– It’s one of the most bike-friendly states in the country, they have a program called Pedal Minnesota. Definitely worth checking out.

– There are grants available for tourism entities, with the maximum allotment being $8,000. One of the conditions of these grants is that a certain amount must be spent outside of the state. For DMOs with a budget up to $100,000, there’s a 1:1 match. A DMO with a budget $100,000+ requires a 2:1 match. Grant applications are due in October, so the funds are available Jan-Dec the following year.

– One of the new tactics Explore Minnesota is utilizing is implementing 360-degree views of attractions on their individual websites. The purpose of this is to pique a potential visitor’s interest, and show them exactly what they’ll experience.

– Peter Yesawich from MMGY Global gave a keynote presentation titled “Traveler Behavior and Upcoming Trends.” No surprise here, Boomers (ages 50-68) and Millennials (ages 18-35) are the two biggest traveler demographics. There are 78 million Boomers and 84 million Millennials.

Good time for a friendly reminder. Every person on the Maly Marketing team is a millennial.

– Based on MMGY’s research, 71% of millennials agree they’d try new things on vacation. Millennials are less loyal to DMO brands because they want to experience new things, not visit the same place over and over.

– MMGY’s research discovered that the biggest source of the idea on where to travel comes from family and friends. The second most popular source is Internet Search.

– People are 24% likely to book their reservation on a travel site, while only 14% of travelers actually book through the DMO website.

Driving through Minnesota was a blast for me. It reminded me so much of home, especially how spread out towns were. I was glad to not have to be on the interstate very long so I could experience that. I’m excited that I had the opportunity to learn about tourism in our neighboring states, I believe it helps us do our jobs better when we know what else is out there.

— Logan