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Column: Visit Duluth pairs with Explore Minnesota to bring conferences to our city

­Duluth is one of Minnesota's top travel destinations. Its scenic setting at the tip of Lake Superior and a wide array of great attractions have made this vibrant city a popular getaway.

Explore Minnesota Tourism, the state's tourism promotion office, works closely with destinations such as Duluth to draw travelers to our communities. These visitors spend money at local hotels, shops and restaurants, generating income for businesses and tax revenue for local governments.

Some of the tourism promotion conducted by Visit Duluth is developed in partnership with Explore Minnesota. This last summer, Visit Duluth paired with Explore Minnesota on a jointly branded television ad that ran on the Fox Sports Network in Minnesota and other Midwest markets.

Duluth also works with the state and Brand USA, the national tourism promotion organization, to promote Duluth to select international markets.

In addition to the leisure travel that brings visitors and dollars to Duluth, the city is also a significant destination for meetings and sports events. Meetings and conferences, as well as amateur sporting events, have the potential to bring large groups of visitors to a destination.

Explore Minnesota is partnering with several communities on two initiatives to attract meetings and sports events to Minnesota: "Meet in Minnesota" and "Minnesota Sports." Visit Duluth is an active and enthusiastic participant in both of these promotions, providing leadership in greater Minnesota in these areas of tourism marketing.

Duluth, several other destinations and Explore Minnesota participate together at ASAE, the annual expo for association executives; this trade show provides an opportunity to pitch Minnesota as a destination for the many large meetings and conferences these national groups hold.

Last year, Minnesota was the site for the Religious Conference Management Association, which provided an excellent opportunity for Meet in Minnesota partners.

Minnesota tourism is bringing its own conference to Duluth. The annual Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference returns to Duluth in 2014, when representatives from tourism-related organizations and businesses from across the state gather at the DECC in February.

Minnesota Sports promotes Minnesota communities as sites for sporting events for all ages, from youth sports to senior games, with venues for extreme, mainstream and adapted sports. In early November, Duluth will join several other Minnesota communities at the national TEAMS trade show, a major event for the sports event industry, where they can connect with organizers looking for host locations for their events.

Minnesota is also bidding to host the National Association of Sports Commissions annual meeting in 2017, which would bring hundreds of sports event planners to our state.

The AMSOIL Duluth National Snocross event coming to Spirit Mountain at the end of November is a great example of what sports marketing can accomplish for a community. This major snowmobile racing event brings top racers from around the world to Duluth, along with thousands of spectators.

Duluth is a strong destination for both business meetings and sports events. It offers a large number of attractive hotels with plenty of rooms, as well as sports venues and meeting facilities, including the DECC. It's also an appealing destination, with plenty to see and do for participants attending an event.

Visitors and convention bureaus such as Visit Duluth play a key role in an important industry. Tourism has an annual economic impact of about $12 billion in Minnesota, supporting 240,000 leisure and hospitality jobs.

Visit Duluth is doing an excellent job of promoting the community as a destination for leisure, sports and business travelers, and is a strong partner with Explore Minnesota Tourism. Explore Minnesota Tourism appreciates its partnership with Visit Duluth, and we look forward to continuing our important work together in this key sector of our economy.

John F. Edman is the director of Explore Minnesota Tourism. Contact him at john.edman@state.mn.us

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