DULUTH — Visit Duluth’s new visitor center at Canal Park which opened Friday, shortly after the launch of its new tourism marketing campaign.
The new visitor center includes the standard brochures, maps and information about the area, as well as a gift shop stocked with locally made goods. According to a press release, the center is located in Canal Park to entice visitors to explore the city.
Visit Duluth has partnered with Lake Superior Magazine and its neighbor on Lake Ave., Flagship retail store, to create a collaborative boutique at the visitor center, according to the release. The Visitor Center at 345 S. Lake Ave. will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, with expanded hours beginning Memorial Day weekend.
The store will be run by Bekah Rush, who also creates artwork for Wonderfully Made. Other artwork in the gift shop includes glass art, jewelry, decor, and various Lake Superior, Duluth, and Minnesota themed gifts and souvenirs made by more than 30 local artists.
Although the Visit Duluth name remains the face of Duluth’s tourism marketing efforts, the actual local organization behind the name has been significantly reduced this year.
The lion’s share of Visit Duluth’s former budget will now go to Bellmont Partners, a Minneapolis-based advertising agency, and its PR partner, Lawrence & Schiller, who will receive combined funding of $1.8 million this year. dollars in tourism taxes.
Meanwhile, Visit Duluth will receive $650,000 this year to lead the city’s convention and sporting event marketing efforts, as well as staff the new Canal Park Welcome Center. Visit Duluth will also receive a one-time payment of $300,000 in compensation from the city to acquire the rights to its pre-existing website and social media accounts, now under Bellmont’s control.
“We continue to use visitduluth.com as our online tourist information hub,” said Bridgett Nelson Monroe, Partner and Managing Partner of Bellmont.
But Nelson Monroe said his team continues to update the look of the website. She highlighted new blogs designed “to share guides and travel ideas that highlight a wide variety of Duluth businesses, outdoor recreation attractions and more, to give travelers everything they need to plan a trip here well in advance”.
Launch of a new tourism campaign
Duluth’s newest tourism marketing campaign, “Love It Like We Do,” aims to attract more tourists to Duluth and entice them to book longer stays. Target markets for these visitors include Fargo/Moorhead, Rochester, La Crosse/Eau Claire and Wausau. The new branding was introduced earlier this month by the Duluth Tourism Collaborative, comprised of the City of Duluth, Visit Duluth and the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, in partnership with Bellmont Partners and Lawrence & Schiller.
While Visit Duluth has been operating with a membership model, Nelson Monroe said Bellmont’s approach to marketing the town will seek to maximize the benefit for all, “including working to update membership listings. ‘businesses to include as many tourism-related Duluth businesses as possible on the website.
In the past, non-member businesses had sometimes been omitted from the visitor’s guide, which sometimes gave the impression of favouritism. The new campaign still strives to overcome some of that past criticism, but it will likely take some time to get it right, according to Trisha Hobbs, an economic developer specializing in tourism, arts and cultural attractions in the city. of Duluth.
“As we move away from that membership model, we’re really doing outreach, and that’s the sole purpose of my role is to have those conversations,” Hobbs said. “As such, our website team is engaged in the process of updating all listings,” including entities not previously included.
Although Mayor Emily Larson acknowledged that the decision to hire an outside firm to handle many of Visit Duluth’s marketing tasks was controversial at the time, she believes the new management sends the right message and will pay financial dividends. in the years to come.
“Part of what drives us is democratizing access to funds,” she said. “Our goal was to make sure we literally got as much public benefit as possible.”
Megan Anderson, account director at Bellmont, said the Duluth campaign’s initial social media efforts focused on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. She said other platforms, including TikTok and Pinterest, may follow.
A survey of approximately 1,200 visitors and market analysis helped Bellmont identify four key destinations that compete with Duluth for tourists: Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin; Mackinac Island, Michigan; Boulder, Colorado and the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.
Anderson said the campaign has three stages. First, they aim to grab people’s attention by luring them in with photos to inspire people to want to visit. Then they tell people about things to do in Duluth, from top attractions to local gems. The final stage is designed to close the deal with a call to action, encouraging people to book travel.
Shelli Lissick, a Bellmont partner, said her company has also featured stories about Duluth to various news outlets.
“We contacted national and regional media. As you can imagine, Duluth is a media darling. So we’re getting a lot of great feedback and already early interest over the last two months we’ve been working together,” she said.
Lissick highlighted the recent exposure Duluth has received as a destination in an article titled “Best Beach Towns for Retirees” in Travel Awaits, a television news segment titled “Springbreaking in Duluth” on WCCO and included in an article on “Ecological journey”. in Explore Minnesota.
“We know travelers want to experience things like a local. This is one of the trends we see, especially for the target markets we look at. That’s what they’re looking for when they travel,” she said.
The marketing team developed a “brand story” that includes the following passage: “When you come to Duluth, you are part of what makes this place special. While you are here with us, you are one of us. And even when you leave Duluth, it never leaves you. You will have it when you get here. Welcome to Duluth. Love it like we do.
A new logo for Duluth has also been rolled out, and Laura Mitchell, Vice President of Marketing for Lawrence & Schiller, described some of the thoughts that went into it.
“We wanted equal representation. We wanted it to be unique and daring. We wanted it to be user-friendly and we wanted to simplify it. Then we wanted it to align with the new direction of the brand as well,” she said. “With this new brand, we have really modernized it, given it charm and personality. It was a bit unexpected, and then we also got the nod to the north with the north star, which is also sort of from your city flag.