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Terry Mattson: Include tourism in plan for Duluth's future

You can talk to anybody in Duluth, and they'll tell you how tourism has made a positive change on the community. As Duluth embarks on its journey to create a new comprehensive plan blueprinting its future, I have some thoughts on the importance o...

You can talk to anybody in Duluth, and they'll tell you how tourism has made a positive change on the community.
As Duluth embarks on its journey to create a new comprehensive plan blueprinting its future, I have some thoughts on the importance of the planning process and tourism.
What is planning? According to the American Planning Association, planning is city building. Planning is a highly collaborative process creating a vision based not only on what is wanted, but also on an understanding of the problems and resources at hand.
The fact that Duluth is working on a long-range facilities plan for its schools in addition to the comprehensive citywide plan, not to mention the Parkway Plan for Skyline Drive, may be a bit confusing. But guess what -- they are all related. No aspect of our community is isolated. Not even tourism. By and large, however, there is still no real conscious connection between the community and its tourism industry.
This is not all that surprising, since tourism (albeit highly successful) is still the new kid on the block. Add to that its service nature and clean, broad-based impacts, and it's a whole different animal than the widget-producing, smokestack industries familiar to the region. I would guess that many people still have just an inkling as to why the new convention center expansion was built and just how incredibly good it is for them.
With more than $400 million in annual economic impact, local tourism is big business, yet tourism continues to strive for its social identity in the local culture.
Around the world, unassuming citizens reap the benefits of efforts initiated by the most unlikely benefactors -- local convention and visitors bureaus.
An interesting aspect about the CVB is that as a marketing organization, it owns nothing that it's marketing. Its "product" is the community itself, and the bureau has become increasingly aware that there is a responsibility in managing the destination to make sure the millions of dollars raised benefit the community in the best way.
Imagine Duluth without tourism. Now, imagine how supporting tourism can help everyone in the long run. Growth, infrastructure, wages, education and affordable housing are all issues shared by the tourism industry and the community.
Tourism will continue to grow with Duluth's well- being in mind. But in order to be competitive, public and community support are essential.
Terry Mattson is the executive director of the Duluth Convention and Visitors Bureau

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