The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) held its annual meeting and exposition in Columbus, Ohio, this week. Attendees were impressed with the way the hospitality community, government and other partner entities collaborated to demonstrate how well that city can handle major events. I’m sure their significant hosting investment ASAE will pay off down the line with more convention business. Hopefully not too much!
The ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition is where thousands of association professionals and industry partners gather to exchange resources and strategies. For destinations, hotels, airlines, transportation companies and other suppliers to the meetings and convention industry, ASAE provides one of the most productive opportunities to interact with prospective decision makers.
Meet Minneapolis was a prominent exhibitor at ASAE this year and shared an exhibit booth with partner cites including Saint Paul, Bloomington, Rochester and Duluth.
While Meet Minneapolis and other destination marketing organizations invest the vast majority of their resources in attracting meetings, conferences and events from around the country and the world, it is important to keep our local stakeholders informed about the value of the work we do to market and sell our destinations.
We invited Ward 3 City Council Member Steve Fletcher to join us in the exhibit booth and at our client events in Columbus. His previous sales experience kicked in immediately when customers approached needing to be convinced on the virtues of holding their events in Minneapolis. Council Member Fletcher also met with other destination marketing organization (DMO) leaders and elected officials that were in attendance, as well as with clients.
The two areas that came up most frequently in our conversations were:
1. The believability of the destination’s branding
2. The way in which the local citizens understand and embrace tourism in their communities
Believable Branding Council Member Fletcher and I explored the many aisles of exhibit booths in the Greater Columbus Convention Center and pondered if the messages individual destinations were sharing through their exhibit materials seemed consistent and authentic.
One that resonated was Chicago. Choose Chicago’s president and CEO, David Whitaker, gave Council Member Fletcher and me some insights into their most recent destination branding, “Welcome Home.” David explained that the phrase was meant to evoke Midwest hospitality and warmth. It was also a diversity and inclusion message to event planners that the city is welcoming to all. This seemed to make sense and personalize a destination that could easily become overwhelming considering the size of its hotels, convention center, airports, attractions and physical layout. Local Engagement Al Hutchinson, my Baltimore counterpart, shared some perspective on local community engagement. The importance of this local engagement has been front page news recently as Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and President Donald Trump have exchanged public messages on the image of Baltimore. Al indicated that his organization sent a letter of invitation to the President to visit the “real Baltimore.” As a result, Congressman Cummings will be meeting directly with the Visit Baltimore team for further strategy sessions. In addition, this clash has galvanized local citizens and institutions including the local newspaper and has clearly elevated community pride.
Minneapolis has been known as “City by Nature” for nearly a decade. Our original premise, supported by research and significant community engagement, still holds true.
On the local awareness front, we still have work to do in demonstrating the benefits of the tourism / hospitality industry to our local community. However, the fact that as many as half of our website’s visits are from the local region suggests that Meet Minneapolis is a valuable resource. And as we look at our very engaged Meet Minneapolis and Sports Minneapolis Advisory Board members and our rapidly growing list of partner businesses, we are definitely on the right track.
Thank you to Council Member Fletcher for joining us in Columbus to observe how our city interacts within the meetings and conventions industry ecosystem, and thanks to all of our local supporters and stakeholders.