With all of these assets in their own backyard, it may not be surprising that it takes a lot to impress Chicagoans seeking travel and leisure options. The Meet Minneapolis team leading our Destination Transformation 2030 tourism master plan initiative recently conducted focus groups in Chicago as part of the grounding effort of the plan. The grounding consists of data collection and information gathering to assess Minneapolis as a tourist destination. One of the key constituent groups to be included in the assessment is tourists. The markets from which the greatest percentage of tourists to Minneapolis originate are Fargo, Sioux Falls, Des Moines and Madison, each contributing approximately 5 percent of the 32 million visitors to the metropolitan area in 2015. Three percent originate from, Chicago which equates to nearly one million visitors annually.
One million is a substantial number of visitors, but the nearly 10 million residents of metro Chicagoland make it a lucrative and fertile place to try to gain more of a leisure visitor foothold. According to Meet Minneapolis’ Director of Market Research, Kevin Hanstad, the Chicago focus group revealed that residents from the Windy City come to Minneapolis to visit family, friends and Mall of America. In spite of the world-class shopping Chicagoans enjoy along the Magnificent Mile or Woodfield Mall, MOA was referred to as a bucket list item for many of those who took part in the focus group.
Focus group participants indicated that they appreciate the lakes and natural beauty of Minneapolis as well as the fact that it is the home of a significant number of Fortune 500 corporations. Hanstad also noted that, “when we asked past visitors who had not been to Minneapolis in two or more years for the reason they had not returned, the overwhelming response was that they see or hear no advertising about Minneapolis giving them a compelling reason to re-visit.”
While we have had significant success in attracting visitors from the Chicago market through earned media and direct sales activities, these preliminary findings are a clear mandate for Meet Minneapolis to continue to work to augment its resources in order to increase awareness in key markets like Chicago through paid media. Although the completion of the final Destination Transformation 2030 report is still months away, our Destination Branding and Strategy team has already incorporated some of the learnings from earlier focus groups in Des Moines and Fargo into our current summer campaign. Stay tuned for more nuggets of learnings as we complete this phase of Destination Transformation 2030.