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Column: Introducing Visit Duluth’s new president/CEO

Anna Tanski

Back in 1991, a small newspaper classified ad seeking a convention salesperson at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) caught my eye. While working at WDIO in the news department, the construction and grand opening of the DECC’s City Side Convention Center had been big news and selling the shiny new venue seemed like an exciting opportunity for a recent UW-Superior communications graduate. Fortunately, I was chosen for the job, and introduced to the emerging hospitality industry.

It was an incredible experience showcasing the DECC’s spectacular convention center to meeting planners from around Minnesota and across the country. Each client presented a unique opportunity to learn about an association representing thousands of different industries and professions. In response to the thriving convention business, the DECC underwent several expansions including the Omnimax Theatre and Harbor Side Convention Center additions. At the same time, Canal Park’s remarkable transformation began as hotels were built, existing warehouses were repurposed into vibrant restaurants and shops and the waterfront evolved into the City’s hub of activity.

For 14 years I reveled in the partnership established with Visit Duluth, co-promoting our destination as one of the top meeting destinations in the Midwest. Together, we exhibited at trade shows, hosted individual site inspections, conducted sales missions to numerous cities and made bid presentations to boards of directors. As a team, we celebrated the victories and shared disappointments. This collaboration laid the foundation of experience essential for the next phase of my journey.

When the opportunity to join Visit Duluth as director of sales opened up in 2005, I jumped at the chance. Transitioning from selling the crown jewel of venues to the promoting the entire sparkling tiara was a challenge I’d prepared for. Even so, there was volumes of information to absorb. For several months I experienced the sensation similar to waking up in the morning and physically stretching. In a destination constantly striving to keep the visitor experience “fresh” this never really subsides.

Having a well-established successful sales

effort provided an excellent platform to expand upon. The sport marketing initiative was added less than three years ago and comprised more than 20 percent of bookings in 2013. This explosive growth in such a short time indicates this market holds tremendous potential for Duluth. Overall, meetings, conventions, sports and group tour benefits Duluth’s economy by generating more than $30 million every year. These events are vital for the DECC’s success as well as hotel partners and the hospitality industry as a whole, primarily because of when they take place -off peak seasons during mid-week dates. This business fills the gaps between higher traffic weekends and impacts every sector of the


After being named President/CEO in late February, I immediately began to evaluate and assess our organization. How fortunate to come onboard while Duluth’s tourism industry is riding high after another year of growth in 2013. New digital initiatives, identifying untapped markets and expanding upon proven efforts are strategies being utilized to continue building upon this momentum. Another objective is establishing our organization as a key partner within the community to provide the ultimate visitor experience, drive economic development and improve quality of life.

In the words of Vince Lombardi, “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” I’m thrilled for the opportunity to serve as President of Visit Duluth and look forward to connecting with the community through this article each month. Together, we’re poised for tremendous growth in our city and this thriving industry.

Anna Tanski lives in Hermantown with her husband Jason. She has two children, Allison and Steven. She’s a native of the Twin Ports, born and raised in Superior, WI. Hence, a Green Bay Packer fan to the core. Email her at

Anna Tanski

Anna Tanski is president/CEO of Visit Duluth and lives in Hermantown with her husband, Jason. She has two children, Allison and Steven. She’s a native of the Twin Ports, born and raised in Superior, hence a Green Bay Packer fan to the core.