Terry Mattson Your City Your Business: Tourism reaffirms its path

If you've ever paused in your life and wondered just what the heck it is you've been doing for the last five years, you're not alone. Often those who stop to take this kind of compass reading find the next period in their lives very rewarding. As...

If you've ever paused in your life and wondered just what the heck it is you've been doing for the last five years, you're not alone. Often those who stop to take this kind of compass reading find the next period in their lives very rewarding. As Duluth's official destination marketing organization, Visit Duluth recently paused to consider whether or not it is in tune with Duluth's primary tourism consumers.

This summer Visit Duluth conducted consumer research -- which was last performed in 1999 -- to affirm that our advertising, sales and promotion strategies during the last five years were correct, or to reset a course for the next few years. Fortunately, but not surprisingly, we found that our strategies match what our consumers want. As Duluth's primary custodian of the destination's image and "keeper of the brand," research-based decision-making is a hallmark of Visit Duluth's success.

Perhaps nothing is more important in marketing than knowing consumers' interests. Every successful marketer has a firm grasp on what its customers want. In 1999, Visit Duluth established that insight through two research projects focusing on Twin Cities' residents and visitors to Duluth. This summer, that research was updated to reflect trends over the last five years, and then research was conducted in the Twin Cities and amongst visitors to Duluth.

It would be impossible to recap the research completely here, but I would like to point out a few items that clearly indicate Duluth's tourism industry is meeting consumers' expectations.

  • Seventy-five percent of the visitors said Duluth was their primary destination (not just a dropping off point en route to someplace else). This is a very significant increase from 1999, when 47 percent listed Duluth as their primary visit.
  • Visitors come to Duluth more often. In 2005, 60 percent of visitors had been to Duluth three or more times in the last three years. In 1999, it was 44 percent.
  • More visitors are staying overnight in our hotels, motels and bed and breakfast inns. Thirteen percent more visitors have stayed overnight at least twice in the last three years.
  • We've increased our visitors' length of stay from under two days in 1999 to more than three days in 2005, with significant gains in mid-week business.
  • Visit Duluth's heralded Web site is an ever increasing marketing resource. Use of by our visitors has increased by 15 percent over 1999.
  • Duluth's annual publication, the Guide to Duluth, is more appealing to visitors than ever. In 2005, 61 percent of visitors had seen the Guide to Duluth, a 17 percent increase over 1999. Ninety-eight percent of them found it very useful in planning their stay in Duluth.
  • There is increased interest in "soft adventure" and historic tourism indicating opportunities for continued growth in both market segments.
  • The number of visitors coming to visit family and friends declined most sharply since 1999. This likely reflects Duluth tourism's overall increase and remains a very small element of Duluth tourism.
  • Visitors love Duluth's natural beauty. Lake Superior remains the first thing that comes to mind when they visit Duluth. Visitors also clearly indicated they are attracted by Duluth's infrastructure and need things to see and do.

These are only very brief indications that the promotional strategies employed by Visit Duluth and Duluth's tourism businesses are paying off. As we dive headlong into these findings, though, these represent very strong indicators that we have made the right choices over the last five years.
It's certainly no wonder that Duluth's tourism industry is in its 17th consecutive year of sustained revenue growth, a major contributor to the quality of life that all Duluthians enjoy.


While I've got your attention, here are two new tourism events for 2006:

X-Treme International Ice Racing

Watch as man and machine go from 0 to 60 mph in under 3 seconds! Speedway bikes (popular in Europe) and modified quads compete on ice at the DECC Arena, Sunday, Jan. 8, at 3 p.m. Over 2,000 metal studs are added to the tires and there are NO brakes. You have to see it to believe it.

Outdoor Sports Expo

Mark your calendars now for the inaugural event Aug. 4-6 to be held at the Spirit Mountain Recreation Area overlooking the beautiful St. Louis River. The Expo is destined to become the premier benchmark for outdoor lifestyles. Gadgets and information for everything from fishing, hunting, camping, skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, bicycling, ATV and more. Demos, giveaways, exhibits, seminars and entertainment geared for outdoor fanatics who enjoy everything from silent sports to motorized recreation will be on display. Fun for the whole family.

Even with so much going on this winter, Visit Duluth will be busy doing our homework to make sure Duluth remains one of America's premier getaway destinations.

What To Read Next
Get Local