We continue to see signs of a gradual recovery of our local travel/hospitality industry as well as the resurging vibrancy of our downtown. There is a slow but steady uptick in hotel occupancies, downtown office worker numbers are up, and more restaurants and other businesses are reopening. To propel that positive momentum, Meet Minneapolis is developing sales, services and marketing initiatives that will distinguish us from other destinations and strengthen the relationships we have with our customers. Three examples are our video assets, enhanced pre-promotional activities and our pursuit of meetings industry events.
Meeting and event planners went for more than a year without conducting in-person visits of destinations they are considering or already committed to because of COVID-related travel restrictions. Now that meetings are once again occurring, those event professionals need to refamiliarize themselves with destinations they have on their lists. We would prefer to have as many in-person customer site visits or small familiarization trips as possible. When that’s not possible, the high-quality videos that our Destination Branding and Strategy team members produced have been a hit with customers. There are periodic questions about our readiness as a destination. The “Top 8 Reasons Why Minneapolis” campaign helps us to succinctly tell our story. Check out one version of our new videos here.
Our team conducts “pre-promotes” to help drive attendance at conventions we will be hosting by attending that event in its prior year destination. The most recent example is the Shriners International 148th Imperial Session, scheduled for Minneapolis on July 3-7, 2022. Recently, in Houston, I had the opportunity to join Madonna Carr and Erica Bergum from our Destination Services team for the 147th Imperial Session. We hosted the Shriners leadership for a social event and made a presentation to the entire group of delegates to give them a preview of what to expect in 2022. We anticipate an increased presence at other pre-promotes over the next few months – or even longer – to help preserve the economic impact of these events when they are here.
Pursuing Meetings Industry Events
Over the years, Minneapolis has hosted major events that attract meeting and event planning decision-makers as an intentional strategy. Those events include the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Convention, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) World Education Congress, Sports Events & Tourism Association’s Symposium, and the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals’ annual convention. These events are important for the economic value they bring during the time they are here. But more importantly, these industry events give us the opportunity to showcase our destination assets to those decision-makers who can observe firsthand how their own events will work logistically in Minneapolis. We have seen an uptick in future leads each time we have hosted such events. We currently have two such opportunities on our radar and look forward to sharing the positive news on when we can host them in the coming months.
As our industry works feverishly to get each destination back to pre-pandemic levels, we see strategies such as ramped-up advertising and promotional activities – and even financial incentives. But there are also more personal approaches. Recently, upon my return from an industry event in Las Vegas, I received a personal note from the general manager of the hotel in which I stayed. Originally, I believed it to be an automated note. I responded to it, just to convince myself that it was not personal. Surprise! The general manager quickly responded and had a salesperson also follow up to offer me assistance on future visits. In a city that perennially has run hotel occupancies in the 90% range on an inventory exceeding 140,000 rooms (Minneapolis has about 9,500 rooms and the metro has about 35,000 rooms), that personal touch was impressive.
So, we are not the only destination going that extra mile. We invite you and all of our local partner businesses to join us in continuing to distinguish Minneapolis in the marketplace. Minneapolis has always competed fiercely with cities such as Indianapolis, Denver, Chicago, and Kansas City. Now, more than ever, we need to be on top of our game.