Minesota Tourism Strategic Plan 2008 INTRODUCTION Vision: To be the most effective travel marketing organization in the United

States Mission: To promote travel to and within the state of Minnesota Goals: 1. To increase the number of resident and nonresident travelers in Minnesota, 2. To grow receipts/sales of tourism in Minnesota, 3. To generate increased state and local tax revenue from tourism, and 4. To increase leisure and hospitality employment in the Minnesota. STRUCTURE AND BUDGET To fulfill its mission and achieve its strategic objectives, Explore Minnesota Tourism is organized into four areas: Communications, Industry Relations, Marketing and Research, and Operations and Consumer Services. Communications: Media relations, publications and electronic media are all key to Explore Minnesota Tourism marketing. Media relations programs generate positive media coverage of Minnesota travel opportunities and of the state’s tourism industry. A large photo library provides the media with visual images of the state. A series of publications, many developed through publishing partnerships, promotes Minnesota destinations and activities. This unit is also responsible for the comprehensive Web site www.exploreminnesota.com and offers consumers a series of e-mail newsletters. Marketing and Research: This area includes advertising and promotions directed to potential travelers, using print media, television and radio, direct mail, electronic marketing and special promotions. Marketing partnerships extend the reach of Explore Minnesota advertising. The primary markets in the U.S. are in the north central region. International markets include Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, and Scandinavia. This unit also markets Minnesota to group tour operators and has a packaged travel program. Research conducted in-house or provided by other sources guides the development of marketing programs. Industry Relations: This program area is responsible for facilitating two-way communication between Explore Minnesota Tourism and the state’s tourism industry. Regional staff located in Brainerd, Duluth, Mankato, and Thief River Falls, as well as St. Paul, provide community based marketing assistance. This unit facilities interagency partnerships, develops educational programs and monitors public policy issues that may affect tourism in Minnesota. Grants are awarded to nonprofit tourism organizations to maximize state and local marketing resources. All grants and marketing partnerships must meet established criteria and include matching fund requirements and performance measures. Operations and Consumer Services: This unit provides information to travelers and prospective travelers. Staff of the Contact Center give consumers the opportunity to talk to a “real” person. Inquiries, including those generated by advertising, are received and handled via phone, e-mail and fax. Travel information is also delivered person-to-person to visitors at 10 highway travel information centers located throughout the state; four of these are operated by local tourism organizations in partnership with EMT. An extensive database maintained by this unit includes detailed information on approximately 2,300 accommodations, 2,100 attractions, and 2,500 events. The database is available to consumers through

www.exploreminnesota.com and through Journey, the customized travel planning service. This unit is also responsible for management of administrative systems and financial and personnel functions office wide Budget: The general fund operating budget for the FY08-09 biennium is $10 million per year. The agency employs about 60 full and part-time staff. The budget is allocated as follows: Communications Marketing and Research Industry Relations Partnership grants Operations and Consumer Services Fulfillment Travel Information 8% 37% 8% 9% 22% 9% 7%

In addition, to develop maximum private sector involvement in tourism, $500,000 is also available but must be matched from non-state sources. Each $1 of additional state funding must be matched with $3 of private sector funding, either cash or in-kind. SITUATION OVERVIEW

Despite the mortgage crisis and other current economic concerns, both domestic and international travel to the U.S. are forecast to see modest, steady growth through at least 2010.

"The amount of change in marketing over the past 3-5 years probably equals the amount of change over the past 30 years." - Robert Liodice, ANA CEO

Most travelers now search online for at least some information for travel planning, and $4 out of every $10 spent online is spent on travel. Still, many travelers research online, then make their travel purchases offline.

Consumers seek authentic peer-to-peer content on what to do and where to stay.

Research shows that Web sites should support the decision to visit with specific, interesting information that creates excitement about the destination.

Travelers view video online but are not as likely to contribute their own video to a Web site. Among U.S. Internet users, 72% are monthly online video viewers, 35% access user-generated content online and 17% are active blog readers.

Outdoor activities are an important Minnesota draw, especially for in-state travelers.

Cultural activities are of particular interest to non-resident travelers.

The trend of last-minute, shorter vacations is continuing.

Concerns about gas and economy lead travelers to take trips closer to home.

Continuing a recent trend, travel and spending in Minnesota by Canadians were up in 2006 for both overnight and day visitors.

American travelers are increasingly interested in minimizing their impact on the environment.

While nine in ten (91%) travelers in Minnesota identify themselves as white, racial and ethnic diversity is reflected in others who identify themselves as American Indian (2%), Black (2%), Hispanic (2%) and Asian (1%).

Unexpected situations or disasters (such as flooding, wildfires and the 2007 bridge collapse) can influence consumers’ perceptions of Minnesota as a travel destination.

CONSUMER ADVERTISING Explore Minnesota Tourism will continue the My Favorite Minnesota™ advertising campaign that began in 2007. With an anticipated $4.3 million ad budget, we will create and place ads that will drive consumers to www.exploreminnesota.com, support publication distribution goals, generate leads, and increase awareness of the My Favorite Minnesota campaign and the Explore Minnesota brand. The advertising markets are: Minneapolis/St Paul; Fargo/Grand Forks, ND; Sioux Falls, SD; Cedar Rapids, IA; Des Moines, IA; LaCrosse/Eau Claire, WI; Thunder Bay & Winnipeg, Canada; and greater Minnesota (TV and radio advertising through Minnesota Broadcasters

Association agreement). The primary target audience is consumers aged 35-54 with household incomes greater than $50,000; our secondary audience is consumers aged 25-34. Approximately 60% of the media budget will be spent in out-of-state markets; 40% for instate marketing. The media budget is also allocated seasonally: 61% to promote spring/summer travel, 23% for fall marketing, and 16% for winter.

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

Run television advertising in selected markets (noted above) on a staggered schedule throughout the year. (Except Iowa in January and February due to political activity) Leverage added value with media outlets to promote major partnership sweepstakes Advertising placed in travel and targeted activity magazines Advertising emphasizes vertical activities based on the My Favorite Minnesota™ theme and consumer generated content Online ad placements on local news-oriented websites in our core markets, and key tourism aligned websites Online keyword paid search in MN, IA, WI, ND, SD, Chicago and Canadian markets. Video distribution to media Web sites Seasonal co-registration activities to gain consumer leads Large-scale partnership-based, year-long promotion to attract attention, drive Web traffic and gain incremental leads Media partnerships with the Minnesota Broadcasters Association; KARE 11-TV; Star Tribune; and WCCO-TV Continue to encourage consumer generated Web site content for authentic travel recommendations Evaluate the positioning of regions in order to best facilitate the consumer’s planning experience Incorporate diversity in all media

Measurements:

• • • • •

Evaluate recall of advertising messages and creative in core markets through annual campaign-focused survey Increase consumer submissions to My Favorite Minnesota™ Achieve established goals for consumer inquiries Increase overall traffic to www.exploreminnesota.com Assess the effectiveness of the advertising in influencing incremental travel through conversion study

EXPLOREMINNESOTA.COM We redesigned this site in early 2007, and created a new module for consumer-generated content. The My Favorite Minnesota™ pages allow consumers to view and create lists of their favorite things about traveling in Minnesota, including video and photos.

• •

• • • • • • • •

Enhance our site with mapping, expanding the application for user-generated content (My Favorite Minnesota), and instituting new navigation (drop down menus) Enhance the site's appearance in natural searches by syndicating content through RSS feeds and blogs, and incorporating search engine optimization and subject area content into the site's design Maintain consistency on the site by incorporating the golf, regional and scenic byways sites into main site; include itineraries and audio technology in scenic byways site redesign Increase usability of our site by conducting user research with consumers to identify other areas for improvement Increase efficiency and save budget by working toward a site that can be maintained by internal staff Increase revenue by introducing new pricing and packaging for Web enhancements Evaluate creation of kid’s Web page (resources needed) Evaluate possibility of creating industry Internet advisory group Increase appropriate use of our photos by developing a searchable, downloadable photo library for use by media, tour operators, and industry contacts Assist Council in funding efforts by maintaining EMT Council site Increase services to tour operators by creating travel trade microsite

Measurements:

• • • • • •

Improved usability rating by 10% through the changes made on the site(will require additional user testing to determine) Maintain our natural rankings in search engines for the term “Minnesota travel” (#1 on Google, Yahoo and Ask.com) Successfully identified and implemented two new technologies Have the ability to make minor changes without the assistance of our developer Increase revenue from Web enhancements by 10% Web site statistics remain stable or increase

INTERACTIVE MARKETING This type of marketing has expanded greatly in the last year. We are actively exploring marketing opportunities such as blogs, Internet forums, social networking sites, message boards and other forums that features two-way conversation.

• •

Reposition our online marketing and expand interactive marketing Create blogs through which consumers and the industry can have conversations on topics of interest; further define blog marketing strategy and explore ways to push content from Explore Minnesota blogs to other active blogs Use Real Simple Syndication (RSS) technology to place feeds on appropriate Web sites, blogs and other conversational marketing areas

TECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE Our marketing efforts rely heavily on a wide variety of information contained in electronic

databases. Currently, Explore Minnesota Tourism uses numerous different databases, causing inefficiency and redundancy.

• • •

These databases should be combined to increase efficiencies and accuracy of the information and allow online advertisers a single point of entry Evaluate other capabilities for uses of Extranet, such as couponing Apply for funding and create information architecture (2009)

CONSUMER PUBLICATIONS Explore Minnesota Tourism publishes a variety of publications for consumers, including the Minnesota Travel Guide, a group tour planner, the Minnesota Explorer travel newspaper (including an electronic version) and various activity guides. In 2007, we undertook

• •

• • • •

Meet consumer demand by publishing the 2008 Minnesota Explorers and 2009 Minnesota Travel Guide. Conduct consumer research to help guide our future strategy on publications. Develop a new publications plan based on feedback from consumers and internal considerations (to begin in 2009). Assure that consumers recognize our trusted brand by maintaining a consistent look and feel for Explore Minnesota publications Increase revenue opportunities by creating new selling strategies for tourism industry advertising opportunities Expand reach of publications by exploring options to have published information available in languages other than English Increase reach by providing electronic versions of publications

Measurements:

• • •

Publications look and feel like a “family” Our publications are integrated into marketing plans Revenue forecasts for publications are met

COOPERATIVE MARKETING Coordination between the state, Minnesota’s tourism industry, and private sector partners allows Minnesota to compete more effectively in the marketplace. Leveraging each other’s individual assets broadens reach and increases the impact of marketing activities and promotions among key audiences.

• •

Coordinate Minnesota tourism industry and Explore Minnesota marketing in ways that extend reach and impact in the market and avoids duplication Focus regional marketing initiatives on their unique tourism products, targeting specific consumer markets and generating inquiries or sales for destinations

• • •

• •

Facilitate relationships between local tourism promotion organizations with common goals, to encourage consolidation and better efficiency of marketing efforts Develop marketing partnerships focusing on vertical markets, such as golf, biking, wildlife, arts, cultural heritage, etc. Develop a large-scale marketing partnership to expand awareness, generate leads, drive web traffic, and secure significant in-kind value and/or cash contributions towards match requirements Offer cooperative and promotional opportunities to the industry through various advertising tactics If a critical or special situation arises that could negatively affect a tourism industry sector or region, work with the industry to develop an appropriate short-term communication or marketing strategy

Measurements:

• • • • •

Inquiries generated by regional marketing Inquiries generated through marketing partnerships Number of user sessions on regional websites Amount of in-kind and cash contributions Number of participants in cooperative marketing programs

GROUP TOUR MARKETING To increase business to the state, Explore Minnesota works with tour operators not currently coming to the state by developing products that meet consumers’ expectations for value, convenience and options. For operators already bringing tours to Minnesota, we work to introduce enhancements to their existing programs to increase the length of their tour.

• • • • •

Promote travel to Minnesota at select trade shows, on sales missions, familiarization tours and special events Maintain and develop new relationships with tour operators, group leaders, travel agents, and travel trade media to promote the Minnesota travel product Gain efficiencies and expand awareness of the Minnesota travel product through participation in the multi-state partnership Two Nations Tours Develop and promote information specifically for the travel trade on www.exploreminnesota.com Promote group and package travel to the industry by participating in regional association meetings, and providing training events and assistance in the development of programs through travel trade channels Create an online technical tour guide to promote opportunities for tour operators and group tour coordinators

Measurements:

• •

Number of tour operator programs that include Minnesota product Advertising-equivalent value of Minnesota travel articles

• • •

Number of leads shared with Minnesota industry Number of familiarization tours hosted and industry participants Minnesota industry participation in sales missions, trade shows, familiarization tours, meetings

INTERNATIONAL MARKETING Explore Minnesota promotes awareness of the state as an attractive destination in key international markets where we have the greatest opportunities to influence growth in the number of visitors and extend their length of stay.

• • •

• • • • •

Key markets: Canada, United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Germany, Japan Promote travel to Minnesota at select trade shows, on sales missions, familiarization tours and special events Gain efficiencies and expand awareness of Minnesota through participation in multistate partnerships, including Mississippi River Country, Rocky Mountain International and Great Lakes of North America Participate in the Travel Industry Association of America’s Discover America initiative, promoting America as a destination in 18 countries through coordinated communications and promotions Work with international consumer and travel trade media to promote Minnesota travel destinations Increase consumer marketing in Canada Encourage more communities to actively participate in international marketing by raising awareness of cooperative opportunities and the local economic impact Evaluate new methods of measuring impact of international travel in Minnesota Begin promotion to the Latin American travel market

Measurements:

• • • • •

Number of international tour operator programs that include Minnesota product Advertising-equivalent value of Minnesota travel articles Number of leads shared with Minnesota industry Number of familiarization tours hosted and industry participants Minnesota industry participation in sales missions, trade shows, familiarization tours, meetings

MEDIA RELATIONS Media relations programs are designed to position Minnesota tourism favorably in local, regional and national media.

Generate coverage of Minnesota as a travel destination in print, electronic and broadcast media

• •

• •

Expand coverage of tourism’s importance to the state’s economy by regularly communicating policy issues, business developments, research and trends related to tourism with the news media Increase media access to information by providing current electronic and online resources Increase coverage of fishing in Minnesota by coordinating and providing media support for the Governor’s Fishing Opener; increase awareness of other vertical activities in Minnesota by providing media relations support at high-profile events sponsored by other organizations Increase industry’s ability to promote themselves by providing media relations training at annual tourism conference Create cross-unit proactive media relations plan

Measurements:

Advertising-equivalent value of stories written on Minnesota travel increases by 10%

TRAVEL INFORMATION NETWORK Explore Minnesota Tourism offers a variety of travel information and services to travelers and potential travelers. A critical component of the travel information is the database which is available through the Journey Travel Planning Service and www.exploreminnesota.com. This database also captures information on consumers for use internally and by the industry to enhance marketing activities.

• • • • • • •

Provide customized travel planning information through the Journey Travel Planning Service and brochures in the most efficient and cost-effective way Pursue innovative ways to market the opportunity to speak to a “real” person Manage the extensive Journey and Web site database to ensure the integrity and quality of the information. Educate and encourage the industry to enter and update their information in the database via the Extranet service Proactively increase the number of tourism organizations and businesses represented in the database Evaluate database categories Provide travel information to travelers on the road by staffing six travel information centers (TICs) on major interstate highways and operating four on trunk highways through partnerships with community organizations; designating local information centers as affiliates; and working with MnDOT to research the possibility of wireless access at state-owned locations Provide accurate interest-driven travel information around the clock (e.g. fall color, events, birding, deals) to subscribers via e-mail newsletters or informational reports; Review current offerings and explore other areas of interest Provide distribution programs for industry brochures to consumers via the St. Paul Contact Center, Mall of America, Sport Shows and Travel Information Centers (TICs)

Encourage tourism organizations and businesses to utilize the available consumer information for marketing purposes.

Measurements
• • • • • •

Number of consumers served via: phone, fax, mail, e-mail, voice-mail, Web site, outside vendors, TICs Number of communities participating in Brochure Distribution Programs: St. Paul Contact Center, sport shows, TICs, Explore Store Evaluate the effectiveness of the TIC Affiliate Program Number of tourism accommodations, events, and attractions in database, number of updates E-mail newsletters: number of subscribers, topics offered, frequency Total number of requests for leads from the industry; total number of leads sent

GRANT PROGRAMS Explore Minnesota Tourism grant programs are designed to create effective public/nonprofit partnerships that generate increased overnight travel in Minnesota and support innovative and effective tourism marketing and research. A state investment of about $900,000 will generate over $1.25 million in private sector cash matching expenditures.
• • • •

Provide Organizational Partnership Grants to attract non-resident travelers to the state and encourage Minnesota residents to travel within the state Provide Scenic Byways grants to enhance awareness and marketing of Minnesota’s byways Create Innovative Partnership Grants to support an innovative marketing approach to increase travel to Minnesota destinations. Develop a crisis grant program to address emergency tourism marketing needs as a result of a significant disaster.

Measurement

Organizational, Scenic Byways and Innovative Partnership program participants and matching funds

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS & INDUSTRY COMMUNICATIONS Explore Minnesota Tourism offers educational opportunities to share trends and resources, encourage innovation and growth, and to nurture networking among industry colleagues. Formalized educational opportunities as well as ongoing communications resources are available.

• • • •

Hold a statewide tourism conference that provides timely information on tourism marketing and travel trends and offers opportunities for industry collaboration. Organize tourism development workshops to address specific topics as needed Coordinate with regional tourism associations on education and programming Develop crisis communication and action plans in response to disaster situations that could impact tourism.

• • •

Enhance EMT Express, an electronic newsletter that gives the tourism industry timely updates on programs and resources Operate and promote www.industry.exploreminnesota.com, an industry resource for marketing programs, research, industry calendars, partners, news and contacts Generate an annual report, guide to EMT programs and other resources for the tourism industry

Measurement:

• • •

Attendance and evaluation of tourism conference and other educational programs User sessions and page views of industry.exploreminnesota.com website Annual industry satisfaction survey

PUBLIC POLICY Tourism is a vital element of Minnesota’s economic development, diversification and rural development. Public policy issues, including workforce, border security, resource preservation, transportation and funding, impact Minnesota tourism. These issues require leadership and advocacy to help public officials make informed decisions.

• •

Develop tourism strategies, programs and policies with the Explore Minnesota Tourism Council Evaluate Council structure and provide means to incorporate youth, other state agencies and under-represented segments of the tourism industry

• • • • •

Analyze key public policy issues and develop positions on statewide issues that support the growth of tourism Pursue a long-term funding strategy to grow Minnesota tourism promotion and economic impact Coordinate a tourism awareness program with stakeholder organizations Implement recommendations of Travel Green Task Force Participate in Travel Industry Association and National Council of State Travel Directors Leadership functions

Measurement:

Annual industry satisfaction survey

RESEARCH Explore Minnesota Tourism utilizes research from a variety of resources and also conducts its own customer and industry surveys. Research results inform marketing decisions and all Explore Minnesota Tourism programs and are shared with Minnesota’s tourism industry.

o

o o o

o

o

In partnership with several tourism organizations, provide statewide and regional travel-related economic impact data and profiles of Minnesota travelers Gather and disseminate information on leisure and hospitality industry jobs, wages and sales tax statistics; international travelers, and top attractions Evaluate the effectiveness of statewide advertising programs and provide information about Explore Minnesota Tourism customers Conduct or arrange for studies as needed; this year’s research includes evaluations of the Explore Minnesota Tourism website and the Explorer newspaper and individual activity guides Evaluate methodologies to measure Minnesota’s market share of domestic travel and return on investment of statewide advertising programs; implement accordingly Monitor and report on industry trends, including periodic surveys of Minnesota’s tourism industry

Collect and compile lodging tax information on a quarterly basis