Great River Guys: Explore Minnesota Conference

So this week’s Great River Guys is coming to you from the statewide annual Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference in Duluth where many interesting facts surfaced, and we at Great River Shakespeare Festival thought everyone in Winona would want to know.

First, Mayor Don Ness of Duluth, who welcomed the convention, was enthusiastic about Winona, and the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of us is: “Winona, I think of a burgeoning arts city.” More comments from around the convention, but first some hard to ignore facts and figures.

What do people talk about when they talk about Minnesota? To begin- studies show outdoors and nature, arts and performance, amusement parks and zoos led all measured online conversations in social media about Minnesota with over 4% of all mentions about each. This statistic came from a major marketing firm trying to gather metrics for their clients not involved in the tourism field.

Then there were the ROI metrics- can you tell I was at a conference?

  • ROI- Return On Investment stats showed for every dollar invested in tourism 8 dollars in state and local taxes were generated.
  • 12.5 billion dollars in gross sales were generated which is a 54% growth since 2000. 54% growth statewide in visitor revenue. Tourism is a thriving industry.
  • More than 34 million dollars are spent statewide each and every day.
  • The legislature recognized the significance of this growth by awarding a 66% increase in funding to help promote Minnesota after a previous downward budget trend.

What does all this mean? It means that communities all over our state are taking advantage of one of the most significant growth opportunities in recent years.

And these statistics are not all about outside visitors. Local members of communities are recognizing that revitalized areas of commerce, exciting retail and food districts, and quality cultural and entertainment venues are attracting new residents and boosting employment, helping housing markets, and causing residents that left their hometowns to choose to return to raise their families.

Now, for what folks from all around the state are saying about Winona and our Great River Shakespeare Festival:

  • “College town, beautiful river town, Bubs hamburgers, and great scenery. They actually have a restaurant named Bubs. Love that.”
  • “Isn’t that where that wonderful Shakespeare Festival is? Draws hundreds of people from all over. I love Winona, it is a great big small town.”
  • “Oh, that wonderful restaurant on the golf course, Signatures, right? Best Chicken pot pie I have ever had. Their dishes were each their own signature dishes. Loved it.”
  • “The river comes to mind first. Eagle watching. All those bachelor Eagles out there on the river looking for food.”
  • “Oh I used to book groups to Winona. Great town. Stained glass, museums, the history center, one of the best museums in the state. I miss it. Time to go there again.”
  • “The River, The Bluffs, the college. It’s like Northfield, they say cows, contentment, and colleges- Winona is the river, the bluffs, the colleges.”
  • “The Shakespeare and the Museum. The Marine Art Museum- they have art there you would never expect. That it would be in Minnesota. Love it.”

I asked person after person and there was not one negative reaction to Winona. Not one. And these were folks who make their living attracting people to their cities and regions but all had a fondness for our city. Perhaps it was an epidemic of Minnesota nice, but I don’t think so. The smiles were genuine and the warmth easy to feel. What a nice thing to hear!

Thanks to Pat Mutter and Kate, Mary, and Cynthia and the entire Visit Winona team for sharing this unforgettable experience with us. Take pride Winona- the entire state is a fan!

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