Local “Experts” Discuss Tourism

TourismForum.jpgKathy Feldbrugge of the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Hayes Scriven of the Northfield Historical Society, Brad Ness of the Defeat of Jesse James Days (DJJD), and Michelle Weber Egeness of St. Olaf College and CVB board member discussed their organizations’ experience with and work on tourism at the NDDC June Downtown Forum. It became clear through their presentations, one size does not fit all.

NDDC President Mary Rossing introduced the topic. She said that in her view, successful tourism efforts bring more feet on the street so retailers can have the opportunity for increased sales. Mary noted that the NDDC supports events and promotions to bring visitors downtown and cited the NDDC’s cow, Patty Cash, and her appearances at events with many visitors, such as St. Olaf’s Celebration Weekend, and her distribution of Downtown Directories and coupons as the NDDC’s latest initiative in this area.

Kathy Feldbrugge explained that much of the CVB’s work was to get people to recognize the economic importance of tourism. She recounted the 1987 effort to win City Council support for the creation of the CVB as a major accomplishment. Kathy explained that the message that the CVB shares in its marketing work is about the community’s assets: History and Heritage, Arts and Culture, Shopping and Lodging.

Michelle Egeness emphasized the benefits of collaboration. She pointed to the co-op ad in the StarTribune as a way to give local businesses more leverage from their resources. She also talked about St. Olaf’s summer schedule of events that bring people to town and recommended that retailers visit their website for details.

Brad Ness distributed the DJJD’s marketing material, the year-round “rap cards” and the specific annual brochure. He explained that these materials are distributed by volunteers, including members of the Outlaw Gang and the Royalty Court, from Missouri to Canada. Brad said that most of their marketing focus in within a 100-mile radius. For a marketing budget of under $15,000, the DJJD folks bring 150,000 people to town. It’s an impressive accomplishment, one that shows the effectiveness of 500 volunteers’ efforts.

Hayes Scriven noted that Northfield has a powerful historical legacy. People know Northfield for two things: the colleges and Jesse James. Typically, the Historical Society uses marketing conduits with a western theme. He recognized that the Historical Society’s “product” has a strong story potential for a variety of publications and that the stories often go viral. Last year, the museum had over 5,000 paid visitors from all around the world.

These organizations don’t target the exact same market or share the exact same message, however, there are definitely some opportunities for collaborations. All of the participants thought that two to four meetings between the groups every year would help to increase the leverage of our community’s tourism resources.

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