June 23, 2015

Good to Great

To aspire means to want, to have, or to achieve something.  Achievement can be on an individual basis or it can be collective. This spirit of not resting on past success and instead focusing on improvement is what gets us from good to great. Two cities that are definitely on the move are Minneapolis and a city I recently visited, Seattle.

Seattle is not one of Minneapolis' regular direct competitors for meetings and conventions, but it is a city that is often compared to Minneapolis. For example, the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and its St. Paul counterpart organization have selected Seattle for their 2015 InterCity Leadership Visit, making it the second time business, civic and political leaders will travel to the Emerald City to study best practices.

Another similarity is that Seattle's former destination branding, Metronatural, was born from origins similar to our own City by Nature brand. They described theirs as "the fusion of urban and natural," and we label ours as the "only American city where natural and urban drama share a single stage." Both Minneapolis and Seattle are home to well-recognized Fortune 500 companies. Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon and Nordstrom are among Seattle’s leading corporate citizens. Minneapolis’ lineup is equally impressive with such names as U.S. Bank, Target, Best Buy and Medtronic to name a few.

The Seattle hospitality community is experiencing record hotel occupancies and rate growth, just as Minneapolis is. Both cities' hotels thrive on the strength of business travel. While I was there recently, I observed areas reminiscent of our North Loop neighborhood, and just as in Minneapolis, construction cranes populate the downtown skyline. And let's not forget the lumbersexuals. The Urban Dictionary describes lumbersexuals as metrosexuals who want to hold on to some outdoor-based ruggedness, thus opting to keep a finely trimmed beard. These men are well-suited for either Minneapolis or Seattle, and they are thriving in both of these urban-natural destinations. 

Both of our cities have formidable competitors for conventions and meetings. Seattle competes with San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Denver on a regular basis. We see Denver but also count Indianapolis, New Orleans and Dallas among our main rivals.

There are, however, some differences between our two cities. For example, Seattle has the benefit of hosting hundreds of thousands of embarking and arriving cruise line passengers. And my counterpart at Visit Seattle, Tom Norwalk, notes that his city turns away more convention business than it can accept. While it is good to have more demand than supply, one thing to keep in mind is that their convention center is less than half the size of the Minneapolis Convention Center. Advantage Minneapolis!

But in spite of its sustained 80 percent hotel occupancy rate, Seattle is not standing pat. They are currently in the final stages of confirming a new convention center and a large, adjacent hotel project. There is a massive waterfront renovation project underway that Tom and other local business leaders believe will rival San Francisco's renowned Embarcadero that contains such signature attractions as Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. Interestingly, the familiar Mortenson sign we’re all used to seeing in Minneapolis is posted at a construction site along the Seattle waterfront.

Minneapolis’ development activities are also turbo-charged with sports facility construction and renovation, office, residential and transportation projects all underway. In both cities' cases, the competition continues to improve its destination product in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace. That means neither city can afford to stop moving forward. We have to continue to advance as we have been doing on our journey to become even greater than we are.



June 16, 2015

The Value of Public Relations

If you want a short-term, straightforward way to get a message out to an audience, you can always buy an ad. But if you want to make a long-term, sustained effort to shape people’s impression of your city, your business or your organization, that’s where public relations comes in. Effective PR isn’t just about getting publicity; it’s about building relationships between an organization and the people it serves.

A solid public relations strategy is key for any organization that wants to ensure its stakeholders and the general public understand what they do, why they do it, and the value of their product.

At Meet Minneapolis, a major piece of our public relations involves earning media coverage. When a reporter writes a story about us, the coverage doesn’t cost anything, and it can have powerful results. That coverage helps sell Minneapolis as a destination to a range of audiences, and it helps our partner businesses get extra exposure to potential customers.

Earned media coverage has tremendous value. It’s one thing to see an advertisement in a magazine about what a terrific destination Minneapolis is for leisure travel. It’s another thing altogether to read a story in a newspaper, magazine or blog that’s written by a travel writer who came to town and had a great experience here. Readers generally see earned media as more credible because what you’re getting is an independent, third-party take on why Minneapolis is worth checking out. You can’t buy that kind of positive promotion.

zLast year, our Public Relations Manager either generated or helped reporters with thousands of news stories, including more than 800 national stories about Minneapolis. It’s a big job, and that’s why we’re expanding our PR staff here at Meet Minneapolis. This month we brought Matt Laible on board as a Communications and Public Relations Manager. Matt spent ten years in communications at the City of Minneapolis as Media Relations Manager and as Interim Communications Director for the last year.

Boosting our PR capacity will help us more actively engage the public around our core mission: marketing, selling, and maximizing the visitor experience of Minneapolis for the economic benefit of our community.

With more than 33,000 hospitality jobs in Minneapolis alone, building our city’s reputation as a great place to visit is something we focus on every day. The relationships we create with the community and our visitors through our PR work help us make Minneapolis the destination of choice for millions of people every year.



June 2, 2015

Supporting Partners Daily

Meet Minneapolis is actively involved in many high profile initiatives that benefit the community. For example, the most frequent question or comment I get involves the Super Bowl, how we worked with other organizations to secure it and what's going on with it now. Now, it has been more than a year since Commissioner Goodell's proclamation of our Super Bowl LII selection after the fourth vote of NFL owners. 2018 is a long way off for our stakeholders and we are responsible for helping them with their sales and marketing needs in the meantime. 

On a day-to-day basis, our destination sales and marketing professionals are working to craft customized initiatives to help our partner companies achieve their business objectives. This may involve direct sales activities, public relations efforts or a variety of marketing programs. These one-on-one consultations between our sales and marketing professionals are happening all the time, often in our fabled, "Sandbox" – the creative meeting space our marketing and partnership teams often invites partners to hear about the initiatives they can take part in. 

One of the most exciting areas of opportunity for partners is the world of digital marketing. It is constantly changing and, as a marketing discipline, digital is charting its own course since it is so new. Fortunately our Meet Minneapolis marketing department leadership realized early on what great value digital marketing could bring to our stakeholders. They decided to dedicate the targeted resources to digital and the results have been dramatic. Josh Anderson, Meet Minneapolis' web & digital operations manager, is our digital marketing subject matter expert. 

Josh is responsible for our web presence. The two most prominent sites he manages are and They are not commerce sites since Meet Minneapolis is not the in the best position to make the final sale for partners' goods and services – our partners are. Our success is recorded in three categories: time spent on the site, referrals to partners’ sites and pages viewed per session. In short, these are measures of engagement. The longer we can retain the interest of a web visitor, the more opportunities to interact with our partners we can facilitate. 

One of the most impressive metrics we can share is that our digital marketing initiatives have resulted in more than 600,000 referrals to partner company websites so far this year. That's critical to our partners because we uncover the prospective customers based on the needs of the partner, then that partner company gets the lead and takes over to actually make the sale. 

With more than 2 million page views on our sites so far this year and those visitors spending more than 2 minutes each per session, many of our partners are finding the referrals they need to be successful through our digital marketing initiatives. Some of our recent partner success stories include:

  • Convention Public Show Partner
    • Discover The Dinosaurs
      • 5,545 referrals
  • Unique Wedding Page
    • Millennium Hotel
      • 3,959 referrals
  • Valentine’s Day Page
    • Minnesota Zoo
      • 2,200 referrals
  • Easter Brunch Page
    • Union Rooftop
      • 1,200 referrals

We understand that it's not just about racking up impressive technology metrics. According to Josh, "We really accommodate partners to what they need help with." The key is that each lead that comes from our site is qualified and is tailored to the business objectives of the partner. 

Our team will continue to play an integral role in major events that generate visitor spending and notoriety for the city, but work in the trenches, like digital marketing, will help sustain our partner organizations on a day-to-day basis. 



May 26, 2015

Nicollet Mall Project Update - guest writer Steve Cramer

I want to thank my friend and colleague Steve Cramer, who leads the Minneapolis Downtown Council, for providing a follow up to his update on the Nicollet Mall renovation project that he penned several months ago. This transformational project will continue to get us closer to being the Destination of Choice. Happy reading! 

Much progress has been made on the Nicollet Mall Project in recent months. The effort to transform Nicollet into a “must see destination” as called for in the Minneapolis Downtown Council’s Intersections 2025 Plan is picking up momentum. Here are some key highlights:

Design - After months of consultation and a great deal of input from a broad range of stakeholders (property owners, business operators, employers of all sizes, residents, downtown institutions, Downtown Improvement District staff, law enforcement officials and the general public) the design for the new Mall is complete. It was presented at a well-attended public open house on May 19 by James Corner of James Corner Field Operations. Corner highlighted several key features of the design, including:

  • Free walk zones and tabled intersections for the length of the Mall creating a seamless pedestrian experience from Washington Avenue to Grant Street;
  • Substantial increase in greening with an emphasis on trees, particularly on both ends of Nicollet near Loring Greenway/Loring Park and toward the Mississippi River;
  • Interesting features to activate the Mall at several locations, most notably between 6th and 8th Streets, where a two-block “light walk” on one side and “art walk” on the other will be especially notable; and
  • A new “way-finding” design that is simple yet clever, and will help organize Nicollet as a key connector to other parts of downtown. 

Finance – The City Council and mayor have approved an assessment plan for some 7,000 properties downtown judged to benefit from the new Nicollet Mall that will generate $25 million. This matches a similar amount of direct state ($21.5 million) and city ($3.5 million) funding to raise the needed $50 million. The project is now fully financed.

Schedule – A substantial amount of public and private sub-surface utility work will begin in June and take the remainder of 2015 to complete. Installation of the new sidewalk and street design will begin as early as in 2016 as weather conditions permit. The bulk of construction should be completed by the end of that year, with final completion by Spring/Summer 2017. Buses will be re-routed off Nicollet Mall during this entire time, and the Farmers Market relocated to Hennepin Avenue this year and next. It will be a priority to keep sidewalk cafes as open as much as possible given the realities of construction.

Livability – The Downtown Council convened a broad-based Livability Working Group last year to develop a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to improving social conditions downtown, especially on Nicollet Mall. Recommendations from the group are being systematically implemented starting now. This work will continue.

A construction project of this scope, magnitude and duration will certainly pose challenges in the months ahead. Constant and accurate communication will be important during this time. Keeping an eye on the ultimate prize of a new “must see” Mall will help, as well!



May 19, 2015

Thank a Visitor

In 2013 the Meet Minneapolis Board of Directors adopted a strategic plan entitled, A Whole New Playing Field: Imagine 2017. Our board and staff looked down the road at the opportunities that would likely be presented to us as a destination and we agreed we needed a long-term road map to ensure our ability to leverage those opportunities. One of the seven pillars of our plan was to increase the number of metrowide visitors to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area by 10 million to 37 million by 2017. 

Based on a study conducted by D.K. Shifflet & Associates, we are well on our way to that mark. The Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area saw 30.9 million total visitors in 2014, a 5 percent increase over 2013’s 29.4 million convention and leisure travel visitors, which is an all-time record for our area. The recently-released study shows that both the number of visitors and visitor spending increased again in 2014. This is indeed cause for celebration as we set this goal before the Super Bowl or Final Four had confirmed Minneapolis for their 2018 and 2019 events, respectively.  

Those 30.9 million visitors spent $7.4 billion in our metro area, an increase of 4 percent over 2013, when spending was $7.1 billion. The number of leisure visitors alone also increased 2.8 percent to 22.3 million in 2014 from 21.7 million in 2013, with their spending increasing to $5.1 billion, or 2 percent over $5 billion spent in 2013. And in case you’re doing the math, the vast majority of our visitors – 72 percent – are leisure visitors. This is a common phenomenon in cities like Orlando, Las Vegas and San Francisco, and is a result of the fact that most major convention cities are marketable leisure destinations first. 

We have another opportunity to share the good news about the size of our local travel/hospitality industry with our local residents. Our locals are seeing more and more that Minneapolis is a major visitor destination and not the “flyover country” that some claim. We can work to recruit more local brand ambassadors to help tell the story of what a great destination we are year round. With the eyes of the world on us with major events like the Super Bowl and Final Four, our locals can help us make or break a visitor’s experience here. 

This growth in visitors tracks well with the growth in the number of Minneapolis-area residents who make their livings in the travel/hospitality industry. That jobs number has grown steadily since 2010 with a jump from 29,395 to 32,743 hospitality jobs in Minneapolis alone from 2013 to 2014. 

The travel/hospitality industry is a fragmented one, however, the proof is in the pudding of its impact on the local economy as we see continued growth in the number of visitors to our area and many more jobs. Thanks to all of our visitors!



May 12, 2015

Ask The Experts

I feel fortunate to be able to share details about our staff’s contributions to Meet Minneapolis’ success. Our team of 50+ destination marketing professionals are in our various departments, which include: Destination Sales, Destination Branding & Strategy, Destination Services, Tourism & International Relations, Sports Minneapolis and Finance & Administration (F&A). Each of these departments is headed up by a subject matter expert who leads his or her team on a day-to-day basis to achieve departmental and organizational goals. Over the coming weeks, I will be calling upon these departmental leaders to share some of their insights through answering some questions I have posed to them.

Our first such “interview” is with Dave Knoll, Meet Minneapolis’ VP of Finance and Administration. His areas of responsibility include finance and accounting; human resources; research; information technology and office operations. I am sure you’ll enjoy hearing from Dave.

You often describe your area of responsibility as overseeing all things not sales and marketing. Although your department is usually tucked behind the curtain, in what ways does your team support the sales and marketing process?

Although there are many detailed ways in which this support is provided, the basic premise is to provide the support needed by staff to allow them to focus and to do their very best jobs. I often describe to the F&A Team that our job is to remove obstacles and diversions to allow sales and marketing to focus on achieving our organizational goals and to allow them to be as productive as possible – this is our departmental mission. For anyone who has a direct production goal or KPI (key performance indicator) target, we want to ensure they have the resources they need. Although processing payroll, administering benefits, paying the bills and presiding over organizational expenses may not often directly drive a KPI, it would certainly be difficult to achieve results if those things didn't get done.

You may hear some team members encourage you to stay in your finance and administration lane and to leave the sales and marketing to the professionals. But if you could, what great sales or marketing idea would you like to implement?

I honestly believe we have a great sales and marketing team, and we are lucky to have such talented team members. I do believe that one of our fundamental challenges revolves around how to persuade prospective travelers and conventions to embrace and enjoy our winter activities. I also would love more than anything to see a convention headquarters hotel project developed to overcome a fundamental objection of major/large conventions. I feel that if we could accomplish these two things, we could compete with many more destinations since we already have a compelling story to tell.

As a native of Minneapolis, what has been the biggest change in the city's destination appeal that you've observed over the years?

The changes in the downtown landscape and assets has been the most dramatic. We will see the completion of the doubling of the downtown resident population from 30,000 to over 70,000 likely by 2025. The supporting businesses and infrastructure that accompany this kind of dynamic growth is fueling the largest surge in downtown activity I can remember experiencing in my lifetime. No matter what activities or interests one has, there seems to be constantly emerging choices for restaurants, bars, clubs, sports venues and events, theaters, shopping and attractions of all sorts for all tastes. I’m proud to have grown up in a city and represent a destination with so much to offer that never stops evolving.

Thanks for sharing, Dave!





May 5, 2015

Go Big or Go Home

"Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do." Mark Twain uttered those words more than 100 years ago, yet they seem eerily relevant to the Minneapolis region today. 

We're living in a time that we will reflect back on in the coming decades and not believe all we were able to accomplish as a community. From a strong local economy to nation-leading low unemployment; from record numbers of construction permits being issued to hotel occupancies and revenues never before seen; and success in securing premiere world-class events in professional football and collegiate basketball, we'd be hard pressed to find another region that has rivaled our recent run of successes. 

And, it's no surprise that we haven't stopped to take a rest. One of the next big, hairy, audacious goals (“BHAG” for those who may be Jim Collins fans) for us to reach is hosting a World's Fair. Former Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has used his new-found spare time, as well as his seemingly endless energy and enthusiasm, to confidently drive the Minnesota World's Fair bid process for 2023. He recently announced the creation of the official Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee with co-chairs Marilyn Carlson Nelson and Lois Quam. 

Ritchie shared details of the bid planning to date at the most recent gathering of the Meet Minneapolis board of directors. He explained that the Minnesota World’s Fair theme is “Healthy People, Healthy Planet - Wellness and Well-being for All.” This theme will allow Minnesota to showcase its global leadership in a wide range of economic, social and civic arenas, including healthcare and wellness. 

Ritchie explained that Minnesota is pursuing the smaller type of exposition that doesn't occur on years ending in a 0 or 5. But the so-called "smaller" expositions bring with them staggering numbers: they attract 12 million visitors over the three-month run of the event. Another attribute of these events is that they must fit within a 62-acre site. The decision for where the event will be staged locally has not yet been made.

Ritchie describes the event as hosting a "Super Bowl a day for 90 days." Or to put in another way, it's like filling the new Minnesota Stadium nearly 200 times. According to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the global decision-making body for World Fairs, 15-20 million people attend these smaller events with a record of 73 million people having attended the six-month event in Shanghai in 2010. The BIE decision on the Minnesota bid is expected in 2016.

Interestingly, as massive as this event is, its decision-making process is similar to those that Meet Minneapolis encounters in pursuing other events. The event organizer, in this case the BIE, establishes the criteria for hosting the event then seeks and evaluates proposals from interested respondents. In the normal course of our work, the decision to select a destination may be made by one or more individuals or a committee or a board. In the case of the Super Bowl, for example, the 32 NFL owners voted to select Minnesota for 2018. The BIE is made up of 168 countries, and representatives of all of those countries will ultimately vote to select a site for an expo. There's a lot of politicking that needs to take place with a decision-making body of that size.

The politicking includes participating in Expo Milano 2015 in Milan, Italy, in order to get to get better acquainted with the BIE decision makers and to understand the logistics of putting on such a multi-faceted event. I have no doubt that Mark can craft a winning political strategy based on his work during his recently completed eight years in statewide elected office. Along with a strong destination and the team co-chaired by Quam and Carlson Nelson (who incidentally co-chaired our winning Super Bowl LII bid), Minnesota’s chances look good.

We've gone big as a community in recent years with a number of successes. This is another opportunity to share our message globally. For more information on the Minnesota World's Fair bid, check out:



April 28, 2015

If They See it, They Will Come

We have anecdotal and empirical data to support the notion that meeting and event planners who see Minneapolis firsthand are much more likely to select us for their events. So if we could find a way to get a large number of these meeting decision makers in town to take a first-person look at our city’s facilities and amenities during one of our best weather months, and have them pay their own way here, you might think we’re pretty smart. Well, we did just that by hosting Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP) 2015 National Education Conference (NEC) & Expo this week in our city. Our sales team, in conjunction with our local hospitality community, confirmed the NEC for Minneapolis back in 2012. We had pursued the event on several previous occasions before we were successful.

The SGMP mission is to enhance and promote the expertise of government meeting professionals. Participating in this association is important to Minneapolis since our hospitality community pursues local, state and federal government meetings on a regular basis.

Aside from being a great event in and of itself, the event has lasting value by exposing meeting and event professionals to Minneapolis in order to encourage them to select us for their own future events. Hosting such industry events has been an intentional strategy for our sales and marketing teams for several years. The added benefit is that each of these industry events represents a niche market that we have been able to develop and grow. Those that we have hosted in recent years, their areas of focus and years we hosted them are noted below:

  • Association for Chief Executives for Sport (ACES); an organization comprised exclusively of CEOs of United States national sport governing bodies (2013)
  • Meeting Professionals International (MPI); an organization of more than 18,500 meeting professional members, representing 71 countries, from 70 clubs & chapters (2014)
  • Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA); a professional, nonprofit, multi-faith organization consisting of individuals who are responsible for planning and/or managing meetings, tutorials, conferences, conventions and assemblies for their religious organizations (2013)
  • Nursing Organizations Alliance (NOA); a coalition of nursing organizations united to create a strong voices for nurses (2013)
  • American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS); a private, nonprofit federation of 72 national scholarly organizations (2011)

A quick look at the success of hosting these events tells us that each of these industry conferences has yielded future business. In the case of MPI, we have already seen several definite bookings and 19 current tentative groups in the pipeline. ACLS has yielded events like the American Society of Church History. ACES helped us in our quest for USA Volleyball, as well as to strengthen our relationships with other amateur sports federations and national governing bodies.

Our staff reports that many of the meeting professionals in town for SGMP have never been to Minneapolis. This is good news for us as we have an opportunity to share our story and, more specifically, details on how their own meetings would work here. Thanks to all of our local partners who have helped to confirm and now host SGMP. It’s a great investment in our future. 



April 21, 2015

Maximizing the Visitor Experience

The Meet Minneapolis mission is to market, sell and maximize the visitor experience of Minneapolis for the economic benefit of our community. As I have mentioned in previous messages in the Minute, this mission is only attainable with the help of partner organizations. Our team does an award-winning job of marketing and selling our destination (link here) but we can only sustain that success if we have dedicated organizational partners.

One of our longest standing organizational partners is the Minneapolis Downtown Council. Their mission is “Creating an Extraordinary Downtown,” and it is clear that an extraordinary downtown helps to maximize the visitor experience and fuel the subsequent economic impact. Steve Cramer is their leader and he also serves on the Meet Minneapolis board. Recently, Steve’s organization hosted an event entitled, “Non-Profits’ Impact on Downtown,” where we heard presentations from leaders of People Serving People, Guthrie Theater, Minnesota Historical Society and the host venue for the event, the McPhail Center for Music. Some of these organizations are also Meet Minneapolis partners.

While a record number of building permits are being issued for office and residential development, new restaurants and venues are opening and more and more residents are calling downtown home, it’s easy to think that this organic growth happens in a vacuum. Our area’s nonprofits are serving vital roles in supporting that record growth we are experiencing by serving their respective key constituents and making sure all of our citizens have the opportunity to participate in our prosperity.

Whether you call it paying forward, giving back, CSR (corporate social responsibility), doing the right thing or community service -- and regardless of the personal motivation -- many people share their resources with those in need. A 2014 report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that the overall volunteer rates in the country were 25.3 percent. Interestingly, the two age groups with the highest percentage of volunteerism are those in the 35- to 44-year-old age group at 29.8 percent and 16- to 19-year-olds had a volunteer rate of 26.1 percent. In my very unscientific analysis, it seems that volunteerism is particularly vital to those currently reaching their career peaks as well as those who will be entering the full-time workforce in the next three-to-five years. This would seem to be a mandate to employers to provide relevant volunteer opportunities and encourage team members to participate.

One of our Meet Minneapolis team members, Dolores Karan, regularly organizes a team of Meet Minneapolis team members who give their time serving meals to people in need at the House of Charity. We also have formalized a policy to officially give team members the opportunity during work hours to participate in a variety of volunteer pursuits if they so choose. I believe that such activities remind us of our own blessings, provides satisfaction in devoting our talents to areas that may not immediately benefit us and are a great leadership development tool. This is indeed the case in my own experience as a volunteer with organizations such as YouthLink Minnesota.

In order for Meet Minneapolis to remain relevant, we often ask ourselves: How would life be different if we weren’t here? Similarly, we should ask ourselves: How life would be different if the collection of dedicated nonprofits we have in our city weren’t performing their work day in and day out? Imagine how many people might actually be unserved or underserved in the community, and how they might have to otherwise sustain themselves.

Visitors know that all cities have issues to address such as homelessness, teen pregnancy, educational achievement gaps and the like. But where Minneapolis and the region shine is how we address those issues and create opportunities for all of our citizens to grow and prosper through the work of our nonprofit community.



April 14th, 2015

A Look into the Future

The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration legislation that was recently implemented, then quickly modified, thrust the issues of diversity and inclusion back into the spotlight. From a travel/hospitality industry perspective, both the NCAA and American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) issued highly critical statements to the governor of Indiana opposing the legislation. In addition, several corporations announced plans to curtail travel to Indiana as a result and there is at least one media report of a convention moving from Indianapolis as a result of the law. As tense as the situation had become in the days leading up to Indianapolis preparing to host the Men’s Final Four, the situation was corrected in time for that that city to warmly welcome the tens of thousands of visitors to their city.

Diversity and inclusion initiatives are often a part of a damage control exercise that stems from an incident of insensitivity toward a certain individual or group. My experience is that if a diversity effort is reactive versus proactive, there is a strong possibility that the initiative will not be sustainable.

The board of the Midwest Society of Association Executives (MSAE), an allied society to ASAE, recently agreed to establish a Diversity and Inclusion standing committee. MSAE's mission is:

To advance and serve the association management profession in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. We exist to help our members thrive and grow… Through integrity and passion, MSAE delivers innovative solutions and helps to grow and strengthen the leaders of Midwest associations.

MSAE demonstrated its commitment to advancing the profession and delivering innovative solutions by establishing the standing Diversity & Inclusion Committee. The effort was championed by current MSAE Chair Dara Rudick. Dara is president & CEO of Management HQ, a Minneapolis-based association management company.

“In general, MSAE has always strived to be inclusive,” says Rudick. “As a number of MSAE member associations are exploring diversity and inclusiveness within their organizations, they are looking to MSAE to model best practices. The MSAE board sees this as an enormous opportunity to ensure that MSAE models these best practices, and becomes more reflective of the communities that MSAE and our members serve.”

MSAE’s role as the association of associations puts it in a leadership position to model practices that its constituent member associations can follow and the formation of this new committee sends a strong message. Meet Minneapolis, along with other destination marketing organizations, partners with MSAE in order to interact with leaders from its member associations and to secure their meetings and events for the city. So the business case for embracing diversity and inclusion is very clear.

I had the opportunity to support Rudick in the presentation to the MSAE board. I applaud them for asking tough questions, such as how can this initiative be sustainable? I noted to them that the goal is strictly business and will help ensure that MSAE would remain relevant into the future. The MSAE board is well aware of demographic trends in our country. For example, the Pew Research Center reports that in the United States as a whole, the white share of the population is declining as Hispanic, Asian and black populations grow. And they also report that from 2000 to 2013, 78 counties of 10,000 or more residents in 19 states flipped from majority white to counties where no single racial or ethnic group is a majority. Pew Research Center performed an analysis of Census Bureau data to compile this report. I gave the MSAE board a local example of why it should formalize its diversity and inclusion efforts. I mentioned that Minneapolis’ most recent city elections saw three never before represented minority or immigrant groups emerge as new city council members. This is a clear harbinger of the future of Minneapolis and of America.

Admittedly, MSAE doesn’t have all of the answers, but organizations like Meet Minneapolis will now have another resource to help navigate a rapidly changing world and travel/hospitality industry as we work to understand the employees and customers of the future.



April 7th, 2015

Don't Look Now

I’m not particularly superstitious so I don’t feel shy about noting how well our Minneapolis hospitality/tourism industry is performing so far this year. Most of our Meet Minneapolis team members and many of our stakeholders likely believe that it’s time to stop reflecting back on 2014 as the “Best. Year. Ever.” Admittedly, I have likely worn out that moniker by now. However, you may recall that last year at this time the local industry was preparing for USA Volleyball’s Girls’ Junior National Championships, the MLB All-Star Game and for Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress. These high profile events were among the many outstanding opportunities that all came to fruition in 2014. But there is strong evidence to support that we may having another record year.

First, according to our Market Research Director Kevin Hanstad, “Minneapolis continues to significantly out-pace the peer set 104 percent vs. 80 percent, respectively.” This means that our future booking pace places us in a much more secure positon over the next eight years as compared to our competitors. In short, we have fewer holes to fill. As a reminder, our peer set is comprised of: Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, New Orleans and St. Louis.

As far as 2015 actual future production, the team finished at 128,441 rooms booked or 125.9 percent of team goal for the first quarter. Our enhanced sales leadership team has helped to create significantly more intensity and precision in the sales process and we are seeing those positive results.

In the area of hotel occupancy, average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR), Smith Travel Research (STR) reports that all of these measures are significantly up for our market in the period of Jan. 10 through March 28 compared to 2014. STR tracks hotel performance on a national basis, including in Minneapolis.

At the Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC), building revenue is also up year over year through February. The Meet Minneapolis sales team members embedded at the MCC work seamlessly with the MCC operational staff to create a positive visitor experience that has led to high user survey results and increased revenues.

Our partners and sponsors continue to respond positively to these industry successes and exciting new partnership programs we develop to create more engagement with leisure visitors, meeting and event planners and convention delegates as our private revenue has stayed at record levels.  

So, don’t look now… but things are looking pretty good. Let’s all just keep the pedal to the metal and make sure 2015 becomes the new “Best. Year. Ever.”



March 24th, 2015

More than Sports

We have shared a lot of exciting news over the last year regarding major events that our team has helped to secure for the community. Our most prominent new destination amenity, the New Minnesota Stadium has been the focus of much of the good news with the exciting announcements about securing Super Bowl LII and the 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four, which utilize both the new stadium and the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Augmenting the notoriety associated with those two big events, is the recently booked 2019 national youth event that will bring 25,000 youth and adults to the city, using both the Minneapolis Convention Center and the New Minnesota Stadium in the summer of 2019. The event is the first non-sporting event confirmed for the new stadium.

As was the case with the Super Bowl and Final Four, the stadium was the last barrier the community eliminated in order to book this event. 

Including the move-in, event days and move out, the event will span a 10-day period and participants will consume nearly as many hotel room nights as the Final Four. So, in terms of size, we'll host two “Final Fours” in a single year. 

Our central location, superior air service, compact urban city center with meeting facilities nearby and our strong corporate community helped us tell a winning story. We also benefited from the fact that the recently booked event had not recently met in a destination where such a strong local heritage connection exists.

With the cooperation of our partners at the Minneapolis Convention Center, the hotel community, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and their facility management company, SMG, we were able to present a winning proposal. SMG has had prior experience with this event in other cities where they also manage stadiums. With each victory, we make it harder and harder for customers to say no. Score another big win for the home team.



March 17th, 2015

Diversity Here And Abroad

We can readily see that Minneapolis has emerged as one of the country’s most diverse communities. In order to fully leverage the vast diversity of thought and talent that distinguishes Minneapolis as a premier destination, the Meet Minneapolis board has recently approved the formation of the Diversity and Multicultural Action Committee (DMAC). The objectives of DMAC are:

  • To develop and update a strategic plan to elevate Meet Minneapolis as a leader in diversity and inclusion at the local, national and international levels.
  • To encourage and facilitate diversity and inclusion in the composition of Meet Minneapolis board and staff;
  • To encourage adoption of diversity and inclusion as a core value of all Meet Minneapolis partners;
  • To ensure that the Minneapolis community is equipped to welcome visitors to the community from all backgrounds; and
  • To ensure that all Meet Minneapolis sales and marketing messaging accurately reflects the community’s diversity and respectfully speaks to a diverse set of customers and stakeholders.

In addition, the board approved a policy statement on diversity and inclusion:

Minneapolis is an increasingly diverse community that welcomes civic, economic and social engagement from all people. As the city’s official destination marketing organization, Meet Minneapolis leads the Minneapolis hospitality and tourism community in upholding those values. To that end, Meet Minneapolis strives to be model of diversity and inclusion from our board, our staff and our public and private sector partners who work alongside us to maximize the visitor experience and to warmly welcome visitors from all backgrounds. Meet Minneapolis respects, values and celebrates the unique attributes, characteristics and perspectives that create the diversity of thought we desire in all of our internal and external initiatives.

We have seen success with our diversity initiatives in the past. The most recent success is the PRNews 2015 PR on a Shoestring Budget Award for the “I Want to Marry You in Minneapolis” campaign. The campaign was developed by the Meet Minneapolis destination branding and strategy department and capitalized on the Freedom to Marry (same-sex marriage) amendment. We have had successes in securing meetings and events that represent diverse populations and we see this additional focus as a means to do even more.

Diversity is not just a domestic issue, but also an international one. Our director of market research, Kevin Hanstad has compiled data that tells us that countries such as India, South Korea and Mexico are now in the top 10 list of international arrivals to Minneapolis. Couple that with the fact that their respective populations are 1.2 billion, 50 million and 127 million and we have tremendous opportunities to increase our visitor counts from these huge and growing diverse markets.

So, stay tuned for more details on the many sales and marketing diversity initiatives from our staff, board and partners that will help us to keep up with a changing world.



March 10th, 2015

Changing Faces on the Meet Minneapolis Board of Directors

For those of you who attended the Meet Minneapolis annual meeting last week, you got to see what’s new and exciting for 2015 in our local tourism/hospitality industry. One of the exciting bits of news we shared was the list of new volunteer leaders that will help drive tourism and visitor spending to our community. This is the largest new class of board members we have had in some time and all of these individuals, who hail from extremely diverse backgrounds, will be able to contribute immediately to the goals and objectives of Meet Minneapolis.

We ask a lot of our board members. First, we ask them to take off their individual business owner/operator hats and focus on the larger strategic issues surrounding making Minneapolis the destination of choice. Next, we ask them to participate through providing business leads, meeting with prospective customers, offering subject matter expertise and in making introductions to individuals or companies we may not otherwise be able to reach. Finally, we work to equip our board members to be brand evangelists for Minneapolis as a destination. We are fortunate that our new directors are joining a board that is already adept in these areas.

The new board members we are welcoming into the Meet Minneapolis family are:

  • Tim Murray, Owner of Murray’s Restaurant
  • Jeannie Joas, President of J.B. Hudson Jewelers
  • Matt Hoy, Senior VP, Operations, Minnesota Twins
  • Kevin Warren, Chief Operating Officer of the Minnesota Vikings
  • JJ Haywood, CEO of Pizza Luce
  • Dan O’Brien, Senior Associate Athletic Director, University of Minnesota
  • Maya Santamaria, President of Midwest Latino Entertainment and Talent, Inc.
  • Steve Lindburg, General Manager of the Radisson Blu Minneapolis
  • Eric Pehle, General Manager of Weber Shandwick
  • Peter Killen, CEO of Cara Irish Pubs
  • Saed Wadi, Owner of Saffron Restaurant
  • Dave Schad, Sr. VP and General Manager of Fleishman-Hillard, Minneapolis

From retail to sports to restaurants, hotels and communications, our new board members will bring their unique professional and personal perspectives to a leadership group that already has a lot on its plate, but one that is poised for the exciting challenges ahead.

Change is inevitable; and on a sad note, two of our leading hoteliers from the Meet Minneapolis board of directors have been tapped for new assignments in other cities. Susan Mabry, the opening general manager of the W Foshay Minneapolis is moving to Washington, D.C., to serve as the leader of the Westin Georgetown. Mark Becker of the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis is moving to the Los Angeles area in an Area VP position for his company. Both served with distinction and will be missed.

Our Meet Minneapolis team has already begun to engage our new directors, so be on the lookout for even greater things to come. 



March 3rd, 2015

The Intangibles

There are many ways to measure a person’s leadership ability and the impact that he or she may have on a sphere of influence. Intangibles of leadership are not as easily measured empirically, though their impact can have phenomenal results. 

The Minnesota Timberwolves recently announced the return home of future NBA hall of famer, Kevin Garnett. He may not be the player he was in 1995 (I’ve actually lost a step or two myself since then) based on his current production of points, rebounds and blocks but the strong and passionate leadership intangibles he exudes on and off the court are immeasurable.

With a young Timberwolves team that hasn’t yet experienced a winning tradition, KG can say:  been there, done that. He’s a former league MVP, an NBA champion and a perennial All-Star. Those career “stripes” will help the young players focus on what it takes to win and to also endure as a professional athlete and as a productive member of society. 

Off the court, Garnett is a well-established philanthropist from his support of Minneapolis Public Schools to donating more than a $1 million for Hurricane Katrina disaster relief in 2005. 

According to Garnett “was born in South Carolina, became a high school sensation in the Chicago area and a champion in Boston. But for him, Minnesota will always be home.” Doc Rivers, his coach in Boston says that KG is in a "perfect spot."

Fans have responded enthusiastically to his homecoming by snapping up even more tickets than usual and KG reciprocated by purchasing 1,000 tickets for the recent Timberwolves-Clippers game. His recognition of the fans’ support, which he called “amazing and unbelievable” in news reports demonstrates the intangibles of appreciation and humility.

Kevin plans to wrap up his playing career here and potentially embark on the journey of franchise ownership after that. Many of our business and civic leaders place development of future community leadership as a priority and we seem to have one such leader in waiting in KG. I could see him a Meet Minneapolis board member someday... just saying. Many of the things he stands for are such as hard work, perseverance and philanthropy are part of community’s DNA.

While it is risky to connect a destination’s or any other product’s brand to a professional athlete, I believe we will be well served by KG’s return as a player in the short term and perhaps in role as owner in the future. So for our destination marketing efforts, I am guessing that having KG back in town will have an intangibly positive impact on us as we swell even more with the genuine community pride that helps us distinguish ourselves from other destinations. One of our team members here at Meet Minneapolis has proudly displayed an “old school Kevin Garnett bobble head" in her office for years.  Now we get the Big Ticket back in the flesh. Welcome back, KG!



February 24th, 2015

The Power of Partnerships

Although we are nearly two months into 2015, our hospitality/tourism industry is still reflecting on a most successful 2014 where many performance records were broken. We are not looking back simply to pat ourselves on the back but also to understand the elemental parts that we used build that successful year and to carry those lessons with us into the current year and beyond. 

One of those fundamental elements of success is found in forging mutually beneficial partnerships. In 2014, the many successes that we recapped in the Meet Minneapolis annual meeting were all made possible by willing partnerships with our entities such as cultural institutions, sports franchises, restaurants, hotels, convention service companies, peer business organizations and of course, the City of Minneapolis.

If you were able to attend today’s Meet Minneapolis annual meeting, the message of powerful partnerships was delivered by John Sweeney, owner of the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theater (BNW). According to BNW’s website, the Brave New Workshop has been performing original satirical sketch comedy and improvisation since 1958, longer than any other theatre in the United States. The Brave New Workshop began after Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus aerialist Dudley Riggs survived a near-fatal fall from a trapeze. He decided, for obvious reasons, to move to a less risky career and started his own "Instant Theatre Company" with a cast assembled from the circus and vaudeville circuits. John Sweeney, a Wisconsin native, bought the institution in 1997. He has since skillfully woven his passionate personality with his professional speaking acumen into the fabric of improvisational comedy to uniquely deliver substantive messages of personal and professional enrichment.   

John served as our annual meeting’s keynote presenter and shared some insights that I have recapped below.

What are some of the common elements you have experienced in establishing long-lasting and successful business partnerships?

First and foremost, I would say trust. It has to be the basis of the partnership, especially when things don't go perfectly. Another element I think is very important to great long-lasting business partnerships is that both parties truly want to serve the other. I know we are all familiar with you get more when you give more adage, but in business partnerships that work for a long time, it really is true. It seems the more we serve our partners, the more we get in return.

What life experiences prepared you for your role as the leader of BNW?

My Career life has had  5 major chapters:

1. Growing up on the farm
2. Playing competitive college athletics
3. Working in a fast-paced corporate environment
4. Being a fulltime improviser and comedic actor
5. Owning and operating a self-funding arts organization

Respectively they have prepared me with:

1. A great work ethic
2. A sense of the need for practice
3. The importance of urgency
4. Stage presence and the ability to tell stories
5. Perseverance

What opportunities do you see for Minneapolis to continue to be prominent on the world stage as a destination?

I have seen some great improvements to our city, from transportation, to new venues, to great entertainment, to a revitalized brand. Now, I believe we have a lot of what we need, and our greatest opportunities are in the innovative ways we use those assets in the future. I see our ability to partner with each to find new innovations and collaborations as our biggest opportunity. If we can embrace a Yes And! Attitude and believe that 1 + 1 = 3, we can take all of the wonderful assets this community offers and multiply their value to the visitor.

What is one bit of advice you give to a business owner who is looking for that competitive edge in the marketplace? 

Regardless of your size, but especially if your company is not huge, you can't do it all. That's why partnerships are so important. We're all experts in the niche we work in, but even small businesses are in need of complex solutions in order to grow. We can't possibly do it all ourselves. When partners can leverage each other’s assets, relationships and expertise, it allows each of the partners to grow beyond their current capabilities. I believe the best way to beat your competition is to be a great builder of partnerships.



February 17th, 2015

Ask The Experts

From time to time, we ask local business and community leaders to share their perspectives on relevant issues with Meet Minneapolis Minute readers. Jeannie Joas, president and CEO of JB Hudson Jewelers in downtown Minneapolis, has been kind enough to share her thoughts with us this week about the downtown retail scene.

Aside from running one the city’s premier retail establishments, Jeannie has been active in organizations such as the Minneapolis Downtown Council. She was the top individual fundraiser for local nonprofit YouthLink’s 2014 Night of Hope event, which helps demonstrate her passion to help end street homelessness. And, I am pleased to report that Jeannie is now a Meet Minneapolis board member.

As Meet Minneapolis works to distinguish our city from competing destinations, downtown vibrancy and retail has been an advantage for us. This is true in spite of the loss of some retailers in recent years; and, in recent weeks, we have seen several promising announcements of new downtown retail. Here’s what Jeannie had to say about the issue.

How has downtown retail changed over the last 10 years?

I am very concerned, frightened and saddened by the erosion of the retail landscape over the past 10 years. We have lost so many key retailers—Neiman Marcus, Saks, Crate and Barrel—the list goes on. We need to attract new retailers that meet the needs, wants and desires of the exploding housing market and the growing workforce in downtown Minneapolis. I think a comprehensive survey is necessary to begin this mission.

What role can visitors to Minneapolis play in sustaining or growing retail?

Visitors are crucial to the vibrancy of downtown! But we need to give them a reason to stay downtown and shop and not hop on the light rail out to the MOA. We have a captive audience. Let's all work together to keep them! Meet Minneapolis puts so much time effort and energy into attracting world-class conventions. We are the envy of so many cities for our conventions; let's make Minneapolis retail a world-class shopping destination and be the envy for our unparalleled shopping experience. We can do it! We have done it in the past.

What is your prediction on how downtown will evolve over the next 10 years?

I truly believe that the ONLY way to create a great downtown retail environment is to have a master plan and a solid strategy. We need to have a director of business development and retail leasing. This director needs to go out and pursue the right retailers and serve as a conduit between the building owners and the real estate agents. We need to fill vacancies with the retailers that have been identified by the survey and not just lease the valuable real estate to fill an empty store front. We need to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We have all been complaining; it takes all of us to be committed and get to work on making our dream a reality.



February 10th, 2015

It Takes a Village

Former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton was one of the more high-profile individuals to proclaim that “it takes a village.” She used this phrase as a part of a book title as it relates to raising a child. Newly named Minneapolis Downtown Council (MDC) Chair Tom Hoch used the same phrase during his remarks at the MDC’s recent annual meeting but he referred to the growth of downtown Minneapolis in his context. Hoch, who also served as a Meet Minneapolis board member for two terms, touted the “unprecedented level of engagement” of groups and individuals involved as downtown boosters. Meeting attendees heard of the record year in construction permits, new downtown residents, crime reduction and the level of events and entertainment offerings.

“Let’s make sure we have room at the table for everyone as we continue to build our downtown,” Hoch told the group. Both the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Meet Minneapolis are organizational partners that sit at that table and are part of the village that it takes to make the city successful.

The record breaking performance of downtown’s residential growth and building activity are consistent with the year the Minneapolis hospitality/travel industry experienced. We have shared snippets of that good news but we would ask you to attend the Meet Minneapolis Annual Meeting that will take place at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Feb. 24.

If you’re able to attend our annual meeting you will hear more successes from 2014 and our exciting plans for 2015. You will get to see the recently opened Craft Bar & Lounge, which sits above the fantastic new Visitor Information Center in the main lobby of the convention center.

And, you’re in for a treat as John Sweeney of Brave New Workshop will entertain and inform us as we all try to be better marketers and brand ambassadors for Minneapolis. Please join us as we share more of the good news that made 2014 a year to remember. 



February 3rd, 2015

More Than a Game

Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots 28. Seahawks 24. Tom Brady MVP. Game Attendance 70,228.

I just wanted to be sure that you got the news. Although I really didn't have a dog in the fight, it didn't go exactly the way I had hoped. But as they say, there’s always next year.

I had the opportunity to represent Meet Minneapolis as a part of the delegation that has just returned from Phoenix to begin preparation in earnest for our daunting task of hosting Super Bowl LII in 2018. Phoenix is a sprawling metro area that is the sixth largest city in the U.S. Our group took note of how the Arizona Host Committee adapted the NFL's Super Bowl requirements to the assets and infrastructure they had to work with in order to make the event their own. And, in my view, they did it well, based on the selection of venues for special events, the citywide welcome signage and the friendliness and knowledge of their volunteers.

But there are aspects of the Super Bowl experience that go unnoticed by design. One such aspect is the presence of the sex trafficking industry during major conventions, meetings and events like the Super Bowl. For example, last year, during the week leading up to the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl, law enforcement officials made numerous arrests connected to the surveillance and foiling of a sex trafficking operation that was to be in place for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson is one of three co-chairs of the Minnesota Super Bowl LII Host Committee. During our time in Arizona, we were reminded of her staunch support of children's rights and safety and efforts to eradicate sex trafficking of all people, but of children in particular. She spoke to our group alongside Cindy McCain, businesswoman, philanthropist and wife of Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain, on the anti-sex trafficking initiatives and legislation that they are advocating. While Marilyn's passion to protect the vulnerable among us is from the heart, as a travel industry executive, she is also aware that sex traffickers frequently use hotels to conduct their trade. Under her leadership, Carlson became the first major U.S.-based travel company to commit to training its hotel employees to watch for and report child sex abuse. Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul have had awareness building and training events aimed at equipping front line hospitality personnel to detect situations that appear unsavory. Meet Minneapolis board member and Minneapolis City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden has also been on the front lines of developing policies to eliminate sex trafficking.

The Super Bowl shined a brighter light on an issue that may not be top of mind for many people. Meet Minneapolis will continue to work with our elected officials, travel/hospitality industry executives and other concerned citizens and businesses to end this practice not just for Super Bowl Sunday, every day. 



January 13th, 2015
Not Lost in the Translation

I enjoy studying languages and cultures. At one time, my French and Spanish aptitude could keep me out of trouble in a pinch and my German could help me buy a bottle of water. But in more practical terms, my most recent experience in a cultural exchange was the recent mayor-led trade mission to our sister city of Harbin, China. That northeastern city of more than 10 million residents has been a sibling of Minneapolis since 1992. The province in which Harbin is located borders Russia and, in fact, a Russian designed modern Harbin.

Aside from the protocol and formalities of meeting dignitaries and the like, we were there to see the 31st Annual Harbin Snow and Ice Festival, to participate in the Harbin International Cold Zone Development Forum and to observe the Harbin Cold Zone Expo. The Snow and Ice Festival is an event that features scores of ice and snow sculptures, mostly concentrated on Sun Island, which is located in the Songhua River. Sculptures are also located throughout the city during the course of the nearly two-month festival. Officials told us that 20,000 people were involved in creating the sculptures and related events. The Harbin Cold Zone Expo was a combined tradeshow and consumer show that featured everything from heavy duty snow removal trucks to warm winter apparel to winter-oriented comfort foods under one roof. We were pleasantly surprised to see a Polaris snowmobile exhibit at this event. The Harbin International Cold Zone Development Forum brought together Harbin's sister cities from the U.S., Japan, Finland, Denmark and Canada to exchange ideas on how to better promote themselves as winter destinations.

And it was the International Cold Zone Development Forum where Mayor Hodges addressed a group of city leaders and tourism and economic development professionals in a United Nations-style forum (including simultaneous interpretations in multiple languages provided through headphones) on how Minneapolis markets itself in the winter. The mayor shared details on organized events like the City of Lakes Loppet ski festival and our U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, as well as the way that we enjoy winter as a part of everyday life.

One the cities present at the forum that seems to be handling winter destination marketing rather well is Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. That city's acting mayor proclaimed that, "winter is something that makes us unique." He went on to describe his city's For the Love of Winter campaign. For the most part it was not significantly different from campaigns that Minneapolis or other cities have crafted in terms of doing an inventory of winter events and packaging them with hotels and transportation. However, one unique aspect he highlighted was to work to change the attitudes of locals. In Edmonton, as in Minneapolis, a visitor’s perception of winter can be shaped, positively or negatively, by a local resident. The most well-designed and executed winter marketing campaign can be unwittingly neutralized by a snide remark to a visitor about winter. Edmonton’s campaign is a long-term commitment to reminding locals how fun winter was for them as children and ultimately working to convert them to winter ambassadors who can, in turn, help sell the destination to visitors.

It was exciting to see such diverse international cities come together under the banner of more effective winter marketing. We will continue to learn from Edmonton and the other cities. So, in spite of the vast difference in languages and cultures, it was rewarding to see cities from around the globe come together to embrace common language of winter as a distinctive destination asset. 



January 6th, 2015

It pays to have a plan

A wise woman (who happens to be on the Meet Minneapolis team) once said, "It pays to have a plan." That assertion rings true as the Minneapolis travel/hospitality industry is coming off of one of the most successful and prosperous years ever due in large measure to executing a sales and marketing plan that was conceived and developed in a solid partnership between the Meet Minneapolis team and its broad and diverse group of stakeholders.

From achieving record occupancies and average daily rates in our hotels, to hosting and booking high profile events for our Minneapolis Convention Center and other venues, to receiving more and more destination accolades from domestic and international publications, to achieving ALL key performance indicators, I think that we can all agree that it does indeed pay to have a plan. But 2014 is in the rearview mirror now and our attention now is on making 2015 a success.

The plan that Meet Minneapolis and its myriad stakeholders have agreed upon for 2015 has some familiar objectives, such as booking nearly a half million future group room nights, raising the bar on generating Minneapolis Convention Center revenue and a booking a significantly higher number of future leisure room nights. But there are some new elements of the plan that acknowledge our need to stay on top of trends, opportunities and economic conditions. New plan elements include:

Optimize Promotional Events in Minneapolis/Saint Paul
Since visitors do not pay attention to city limits signs and we now have the METRO Green Line to connect the two city centers, opportunities abound to enhance and diversify the visitor experience. The cities’ two mayors have made this type of collaboration a priority, and our team is already finalizing initiatives.

Develop Future Need Period Sales & Marketing Plan
We have had successes in securing events that address our chronic need periods, however, we now have more defined accountability on how to formalize and execute initiatives that can help fill in some of the valleys in our business calendar.

Develop the Framework for a Tourism Master Plan
Minneapolis has been hugely successful in adding major tourism infrastructure and assets. However, we can be even more successful if we develop a longer range plan that will help us answer the question of what sort of destination we want to be when we “grow up.” The plan we have in mind will be akin to the Minneapolis Downtown Council’s Downtown 2025 Plan with a tourism focus. It pains me to admit it but our archrival Indianapolis is considered the gold standard for having an entire community embrace tourism and hospitality as a means to community vibrancy and economic vitality.

Launch Minneapolis Visitor Information Center
Minneapolis is one of the very few major cities without a city center-located visitor information center. We will remove our name from that list in the spring of 2015 when we launch a new facility along with our partner CenterPoint Energy. This new asset, located right on the METRO Green and Blue lines at the Nicollet Mall station, will be the starting point for visitors looking to explore the well-known and slightly more obscure sites and experiences that will make them want to return to Minneapolis again and again. 

Jan. 20 is the day we roll out in greater detail how our partners can participate in the Meet Minneapolis 2015 annual strategic plan. Our sales, research and marketing team professionals look forward to presenting a plan that prepares you for a great year and shows you how to partner with us on unique sales and marketing opportunities. Click here for details on our sales and marketing plan presentation. Have a great New Year, and we look forward to seeing you on Jan. 20.




December 30, 2014

Catherdal Thinking

Meet Minneapolis and the local hospitality/tourism industry have had a great 2014, which is the culmination of a number of years of planning and execution. We should all be proud of where we are as a destination. But I would submit that prosperous times mandate a closer look at what led to that success, as well, and to determine what did NOT lead to success and try to avoid those areas in the future. Or, to use an agricultural turn of a phrase, make hay while the sun shines. The Urban Dictionary says that means “to take an opportunity to do something when the time and conditions are near perfect or available.”  And for Minneapolis, that time is now.

The Meet Minneapolis’ team is constantly looking for ways to make hay and improve our ability to serve our stakeholders and achieve our goals. The ultimate prize is be the sustainable destination marketing organization that propels Minneapolis to becoming the destination of choice. In 2015 we will undergo a more in-depth review in order to ensure our future relevance. Meet Minneapolis will initiate a process to determine what the destination marketing organization of the future (DMOOTF) looks like and how we can reshape our organization accordingly. To be clear, much of what we will do will confirm that we are already on the right track in most areas, however, if we do need any course correction, we must candidly address those areas.

As I approached this process, I looked to a number of resources and individuals I respect. One of those individuals is my friend and colleague Rick Antonson. Rick recently retired as the CEO of Tourism Vancouver. One of his capstone achievements was the leading role he played in securing and hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the crafting of the Destination Master Plan (DMP) that was set in motion in advance of the Games. He is a well-regarded author and visionary who has championed the concept of Cathedral Thinking, which is a “far-reaching vision, a well thought-out blueprint, and a shared commitment to long-term implementation.” The cathedral metaphor relates to the great cathedral structures of Europe that were conceived and designed by people who would never live to enjoy them, yet passionately and completely dedicated themselves to the end product. Check out Rick’s TED Talk on Cathedral Thinking ( for more detail.  

I believe we, too, should make plans that we many not necessarily be here to benefit from.

In our look at what the DMOOTF is, we will study such areas as:

  • Strategic plan priorities and the guiding principles we have set out;
  • Industry shifts that demand new ways of doing business;
  • Changing needs of local stakeholders who are looking for increased accountability, efficiency and creative solutions from us;
  • Changing needs of our external customer groups and how to best address them; and
  • Workforce and societal changes that speak to the team composition and commensurate skills that we will need to have in the future.

To gain the insight we need to determine the look and feel of the DMOOTF, we will use surveys, live interviews, focus groups and the expertise of our staff subject matter experts.

I know it may seem daunting to consider the process of cathedral thinking when we have so many other high-level priorities. However, I would submit that an exercise of this type is a vitally important part of any organization’s future. It’s not hard to find case studies to support the premise that ongoing quality review (or, as Lowes Home Improvement calls it, “Never Stop Improving”) is essential. And while I am not a dedicated devotee of business guru directives, I will close with a quote from Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't:

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” 


December 16, 2014

Destination Marketing... Locally and Globally

On a local level, Meet Minneapolis partners are very familiar with what our organization does as the official destination marketing organization for our community. In some form or fashion, communities across the country, large and small, have similar organizations that lead the efforts to position their respective destinations as a viable site for business, leisure and convention travel.

Last week, the Minneapolis City Council approved its 2015 operating budget, which included the investment the city makes in marketing the destination through Meet Minneapolis. While we didn't receive all of the additional marketing dollars we originally requested, we appreciate the one-time dollars that were contained in the approved city budget. We plan to use that additional investment in an exciting new sales and marketing initiative we are calling “Minneapolis in 24 Hours.” More to come on that initiative. 

In addition to the positive destination marketing investment news on the local front, last week Brand USA, our nation's destination marketing organization, won legislative approval for reauthorization funding through 2020 in the fiscal package that was approved by the U.S. House and Senate. It is expected to be signed into law by President Obama very soon. Minnesota's senior U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar was among the Senate bill sponsors and has been one of the most consistent advocates for both the national and regional travel industries.

Roger Dow is the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, which is the national trade association that represents the interests of the travel industry. In a communiqué last week, Roger noted that the pending Brand USA re-authorization bill "is a tremendous victory that goes well beyond the travel economy. It's a win for America, which gains so many proven benefits from an ever-increasing share of international travel to our shores." That's an important point since travel and tourism is one of the few industries in which the United States consistently holds a favorable trade balance with our international trade partners.

Surprisingly, from 1996 to 2010, there was no formal coordinated effort to market the U.S. to the world. Formerly, the United States Travel and Tourism Administration (USTTA) served in the role of our country's destination marketing arm to the world as a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Ironically, shortly after a much heralded White House Conference on Travel and Tourism in 1995, the USTTA was dissolved in 1996 and there was no formal entity to market the United States to the world until Brand USA was formed. Brand USA's website explains that it was formed to "spearhead the nation's first global marketing effort to promote the United States as a premier travel destination." (For more information, check out

Meet Minneapolis has been a beneficiary of Brand USA's outreach as we joined with Explore Minnesota Tourism and other destination partners for a leisure marketing campaign in Winnipeg, Canada, that Brand USA helped to co-sponsor. This program will continue into 2015. This is just one way that Meet Minneapolis partners can benefit from destination marketing both locally and globally.




December 9, 2014

Our Extended Family

The finer points of the destination sales and marketing profession remain mysterious for some folks who are not familiar with its inner working. On a daily basis the team at Meet Minneapolis conducts its work with a high level of precision, intensity, creativity and accountability. Whether it's as high profile an event as a Super Bowl or Shriners Imperial Session, or lesser known events like an Irish Dance Teachers or Rabbit Breeders convention or a sales meeting from one of our many local corporations, the task for Meet Minneapolis is largely the same in securing a meeting or event:

  • Identify a prospective meeting customer who has decision-making authority;
  • Determine a specific potential set of dates for that customer to consider in the Minneapolis Convention Center, hotel or other facility;
  • Address all of the meeting specifications in a bid proposal, request for proposal response or other way in which the customer may want to receive the information;
  • Track the decision-making process by staying in touch with the decision maker;
  • If Minneapolis is selected, secure the appropriate documentation, and add the results to our annual running total of definite business we have secured or:
  • If Minneapolis is not selected, the sales process starts over with the expectation of a different outcome next time around.

There are numerous cities with good air service, a diverse collection of hotels, well-appointed meeting and event venues and the other physical assets. But where Minneapolis has excelled is how the community responds to sales situations that seem out of our reach. We have found a way to tangibly distinguish ourselves from other destinations. We demonstrate that we are an exceptional community that really "delivers.” 

Those words resonate with many of our potential customers across many market segments. One of those with whom that “we deliver” message resonated is JoAn Scott, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s managing director for the Division I men’s basketball championship—aka, the Final Four® big cheese. She and her team just completed the process of selecting four cities from eight finalists for men's college basketball's premier event.  She lauded Minneapolis for its thoroughness and creativity with regard to our whole bid while she noted that some cities "mailed in" their presentations. In her own words, JoAn says Minneapolis “nailed it.” 

In recent memory, a number of Meet Minneapolis board members and other community leaders have helped to provide the competitive advantage of community engagement to prospective customers. 

  • Dennis Probst of Metropolitan Airport Commission helped in a successful bid to secure a faith-based convention. 
  • Pete Mihajlov carefully shepherded a National Restaurant Association Foundation event to Minneapolis. 
  • Minnesota Final Four Bid Co-chair David Mortenson placed a strategic call to an executive of a construction industry-related organization and helped to ensure we secured an event that will occur in one of our need periods. Our team had pursued that event for more than a decade. 
  • Both David and Mary Brainerd, our other Final Four co-chair, deftly presented our case to the Final Four decision makers in Indianapolis last month. 
  • Former Mayor R.T. Rybak is interested in helping us to be more of a player in medical industry conferences and events. 
  • Former Meet Minneapolis board member and newly named Super Bowl Host Committee CEO, Maureen Bausch, played a vital role in our messaging to Super Bowl and Final Four decision makers in her previous role as a Mall of America executive. 
  • On the social media front, Meet Minneapolis executive committee member and Spong PR Managing Director Julie Batliner provided the venue, staff expertise and encouragement to launch a social media command center during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will live on as an integral part of our new visitor information center (more details on that to come soon).

So, we thank those members of our extended family who have regularly supported Meet Minneapolis in our sales and marketing efforts. We have found that it's the something extra that makes a difference in selling our community.






December 2, 2014

Let’s Take Another Bow

You may recall that a major part of the Minneapolis hospitality/tourism industry’s record-breaking 2014 was hosting Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) World Education Congress (WEC) in August. Paul M. Van Deventer has served president and CEO of MPI for slightly less than two years. His background was markedly different from some of the other recent leaders that MPI has had since he had not regularly interacted within the traditional MPI community. Most recently, Van Deventer served as a vice president at Walgreens, the largest drugstore chain in the United States. The nontraditional leadership profile that MPI sought was expressed by Michael Dominguez, who chaired the MPI CEO Search Committee and subsequently as the MPI International Board. In his day job, Michael serves as senior vice president of sales at MGM Resorts International. In a press release announcing Paul’s selection Michael said that “our primary focus was to find a high-caliber, globally-minded leader with exceptional communications skills, brand building experience and the ability to drive incremental growth and engagement. Paul was that person.” So far, so good is the general consensus from the industry on Paul’s impact.

Paul took real ownership of the WEC that Minneapolis hosted in August of this year. You may also recall that he served as our keynote presenter at the Meet Minneapolis annual meeting in March of this year as a part of our strategy to build excitement and awareness about this major industry event. During my numerous conversations with him leading up to the WEC, Paul made it clear that he had high expectations of us as the WEC is the largest annual gathering of his broad cadre of stakeholders. I spoke to Paul recently to provide some data on how hosting MPI has benefited our community so far. He wanted to share that information with prospective WEC host cities. According to the Meet Minneapolis destination sales department we have had 17 prospects representing 23,502 room nights and seven leads representing 30,477 room nights associated with client interactions our team had during MPI’s event here. We have also one definite booking as of November with an additional three contracts out for nearly 10,000 room nights that we anticipate closing by year end. We anticipate by the end of the year that we will be able attribute over 10,000 definite room nights in 2014 as a result of hosting MPI WEC. Results in 2015 will likely be much higher; closer to 20,000-30,000 room nights. We will continue to reap the benefits of hosting WEC for years to come in terms of our direct sales interactions and broader destination awareness that we were able to build. Our team has clearly taken full advantage of hosting this major industry event, and it is also clear why other cities are anxious to step up to do the same. 

In addition to recapping those impressive statistics, I thought it was important to share some comments and observations that Paul had regarding MPI’s experience in Minneapolis. For example, he reported that based on surveys, there was an overall 98 percent attendee satisfaction rate. Paul also noted that “MPI's 2014 World Education Congress (WEC), held in Minneapolis, was a huge success (and) much of the success (of the WEC) can be attributed to Minneapolis's world-class facilities, gracious and warm welcome and the overall support of the host city partners, who made our attendees feel like MPI was the main show in town.” 

It does matter what our customers say and believe about us, in particular an influential organization such as MPI. Congratulations again to our hospitality/tourism industry and to the Meet Minneapolis team. Even though hosting MPI is in the rearview mirror, opportunities are on the horizon to do more great things. Bring on 2015!






November 25, 2014

More on the Final Four®

Last week we shared some of the reasons why securing the Final Four® is so important. I wanted to  share a few more thoughts on its importance.

Need Period Relief

Our Director of Market Research Kevin Hanstad has produced data that shows that even though the national convention season typically starts in March for much of the country, Minneapolis is delayed by a month because of weather-related perceptions making our first quarter challenging from a visitor and hotel occupancy perspective. The Final Four, although it technically takes place in April, does create business compression in March and allows us to start our major convention and event season earlier. Another benefit is that along with the Final Four comes the National Association of Basketball Coaches convention as well as many ancillary private corporate events.

Future Business Opportunities

The Men's Final Four is one of the premier championships among with the nearly 100 championships the NCAA holds. We now have renewed interest from the NCAA in hosting more of their championships. The host institution for the 2019 Final Four is the University of Minnesota, which has helped host numerous NCAA championships over the years, including both men's and women's hockey and men's and women's basketball championships. The U is the only institution to have ever done that. So, our future is bright with regard to hosting future NCAA events.  

Sustained Jobs

Among frontline hospitality employees, it's common for workers to hold multiple jobs because of seasonality and differing workforce needs in various hospitality-related businesses. Hotels, restaurants and other businesses staff up according to the anticipated number of customers. With events like the Final Four, many hotels, restaurants, retail and other businesses can support stable working hours for more of their staff members.  

Bragging Rights

Mayor Betsy Hodges declared the best week of bragging ever in Minneapolis in July and she has continued to encourage us be more vocal in touting all of the assets we have as a city and the victories we have achieved. After the announcement of being awarded the 2019 Final Four, I received congratulatory notes from many of my peers, including from arc-rival cites like Denver and Indianapolis. My Indianapolis counterpart and I typically verbally spar (aka, “talk trash” to each other) but the sentiment of commendation in this case was genuine. I did, however, have to remind him of the comment he once made that Minneapolis is in Indianapolis' rear view mirror as a competitor. I added that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.  

So, it is kind of a big deal to host the Final Four® and I hope you will join us in this proud moment for our community. I hope you will also have a safe and prosperous holiday. Thanks for supporting Meet Minneapolis and our growing hospitality and tourism industry.  



November 18, 2014

What's Next?

The Best. Year. Ever. continues as Minneapolis now has been awarded another marquee event in the Final Four for 2019.

Our Final Four bid committe, Mary Brainerd and David Mortenson, deserve tremendous credit in closing the deal with NCAA Men's Basketball Committee. They were able to warmly and effectively engage those decision makers and tell the Minneapolis story.

Scott Romane, our Sports Minneapolis executive director, in a communique to partners after the announcement noted that our bid story was centered on three key themes:

  • Our compact and inter-connected city - easy to get to and easy to get around
  • Our world class venue - the new Minnesota Stadium
  • Our exceptional community that really "delivers"

He went on to say that all  of these themes were featured in our presentation, demonstrating strong partnerships to deliver all the key features of a successful Final Four event, and were critical to securing the event for 2019.

The complete list of cities awarded during this bid cycle were:

2017:  Phoenix
2018:  San Antonio
2019:  Minneapolis
2020:  Atlanta
2021:  Indianapolis

This list represents cities that have hosted the event in recent years, one city (Phoenix) that has never hosted and cities such as Minneapolis and San Antonio that have had a bit of a hiatus from hosting responsibilities.

The highly competitive nature of the bid process was apparent in perennial Final Four host city New Orleans not being awarded at all in this cycle. The Crescent City will no doubt be back in rotation in the near future.

Phoenix has a relatively new stadium and wasn't awarded an event during the last bid cycle; and likely found itself competing this time against Dallas/North Texas (AT&T Stadium) since both Phoenix and Dallas have stadiums that are located some distance away from the downtown area, as well as other hospitality/tourism assets that are dispersed.  

San Antonio is a very popular city for the Final Four but was likely shut out during the last bid cycle since two other Texas cities were in the mix (Dallas and Houston) and since their stadium had some issues to resolve.  I have since learned that San Antonio has committed to $40 million in improvements to the Alamodome in order to entice the NCAA Final Four back.

This is one of the rare times that all Minneapolis hotels have participated in a bid by committing rooms. Our hotel community represents a broad spectrum of property types and target markets and it took an event like the Final Four to create such consensus. This bid process has also allowed our community to compete with cities like Atlanta and Phoenix that we don't see on a regular basis.

Hosting the Final Four will require the use of both the new stadium as well as the Minneapolis Convention Center, which validates the City's investment in tourism-related public facilities. Although Meet Minneapolis has different roles in marketing the new stadium, the Minneapolis Convention Center and Target Center, we play a role in helping to maximize the city's investments in all of the hospitality/tourism assets.

So, as we ponder what's next, the recipe we have used to secure the Super Bowl and Final Four has now been "bottled." We will continue to deliver the message of:

  • Our compact and inter-connected city - easy to get to and easy to get around
  • Our world class venues like the new Minnesota Stadium
  • Our exceptional community that really "delivers"

Thanks to all the Meet Minneapolis staff and board members and our community leaders who helped to secure our latest big win! I can't wait for what's next!




November 11, 2014

Another Big Announcement?

A stellar team has been assembled to lead the effort to secure an NCAA Men's Final Four for our community. Without all of the new infrastructure and amenities that are now coming online, we have been shut out from hosting college basketball's premier event since 2001.  

The host institution is the University of Minnesota and Athletic Director Norwood Teague has been an enthusiastic and influential force in understanding the inner workings of the NCAA's Final Four decision-making process. Our bid team is led by David Mortenson, president of Mortenson Construction and Mary Brainerd, who leads Health Partners, and with support from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, Meet Minneapolis and Tunheim Partners.

While members of the team have remained in close contact with NCAA decision makers virtually since the last time the Final Four was here, the most intense effort associated with the bid effort has been over the last year.

The wait will be over this week on whether we have been awarded a future year. The decision announcement process will be dramatized similar to how the NFL let the world know who received the bid for Super Bowl LII. With eight cities under consideration for four potential years (2017-2020), the choreography of the NCAA's announcement is a bit more complex than the task the NFL had in announcing that Minnesota was selected. 

So, after all eight cities have made bid presentations and the decision makers have deliberated, the official announcement will take place live on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, at 4:30 p.m. CST on CBS Sports Network's Inside College Basketball.  

We will all learn together if we are among the four cities selected and we are hopeful that we can go into the weekend with the satisfaction that our community will be hosting yet another high profile event in our new stadium. I would say that Friday at 4:30 p.m. is must-see TV!




November 4, 2014

A Look Into Next Year

Don’t look now but there are fewer than seven weeks left to work in 2014. There is not much time left to complete pressing projects or achieve organizational goals or to come up with that perfect gift for loved ones. Both my wife and youngest daughter have birthdays during the upcoming holiday period and I have no idea what they are getting this year. But, I digress.

We have had a great year for our industry with many notable successes. And even though we may be tempted to bask in the glow of 2014 successes, I have always challenged our team to be proactive and keep the congratulatory activities in perspective. My colleagues in the hotel industry are very helpful in that regard by asking the probing question: “What have you done for me lately?” Somebody should come up with a song like that.

But in the spirit of what Meet Minneapolis and the local hospitality and tourism industry is doing to ensure we have successes to tout for 2015, allow me to share some of the interesting groups that we will host next year:


This list contains groups large and small that will help support hospitality jobs as well as raise the profile of our City. For example, Club Madrid will attract a number of former world heads of state to a conference to discuss and address major issues. The Church of  God in Christ – Women’s International Convention will return to the city for a second time and give us a chance to show the group how well we can host their other major conventions. The National Senior Games allows former wannabe athletes like me to compete with other athletes of 50 years of age and over. The 2015 Railway Interchange was first here in 2012 and returns next year because of the unbelievable experience they had here. The event grew so much that we had to add additional hotels for them in surrounding communities. The Society of Government Meeting Professionals is smaller than the Meeting Professionals International – World Education Congress we had in August, however, it perpetuates our strategy of hosting major meetings and convention industry events that attract many of our prospective customers to experience what we have to offer firsthand and envision how we can in turn host their respective events. We are working with many of our local African-American media members to welcome the National Association of Black Journalists to the city for their events which include professional development, community service activities and mentoring for high school students. And the Irish Dance Teachers Association... I really look forward to this one!  

So we are excited about what 2015 will do for our industry and look to our partners and supporters to make the most of these upcoming opportunities.




October 28, 2014

The Home Stretch

We are more than three-fourths of the way through our calendar and fiscal year at Meet Minneapolis and I wanted to report on our year-to-date progress against goals. As a reminder, our four key performance indicators (KPI) are:

  • Future group meeting and convention rooms confirmed
  • Future leisure hotel rooms confirmed
  • Minneapolis Convention Center Revenue generated
  • Private sponsorship and partnership revenue generated

The following infographic was recently presented to the Meet Minneapolis board and will give you a snapshot as to how we are doing currently and how we should finish the year.


2014 Goal: 485,000 Room Nights

2014 Q3: 336,376 Room Nights

2014 Forecast: 485,634 Room Nights


  • 203,727 strong tentative room nights in the pipeline
  • 219,996 weaker tentative room nights in the pipeline<
  • Our goal will be achieved through aggressive closing initiatives, implemented an end of the year closing incentive and regularly reviewing weaker groups to strategize on how we can improve our chances of securing the business by year end.


2014 Goal: 450 Leads

2014 Q3: 307 Leads

2014 Forecast: 450 Leads


  • Hosted MLT University annual education conference, welcoming nearly 2,000 travel agents and partners from around the world

  • Hosted familiarization tours for 16 groups of travel trade and international media from 6 different countries


2014 Goal: $16.5 Million

2014 Q3: $13,369,128

2014 Forecast: $16.2 Million


  • Focused on closing the gap by maximizing ancillary revenue with booked groups.

  • Potential large corporate booking for December

  • Booking holiday parties, but space is limited because of renovations

  • Need calendar to be posted on the web and Facebook


2014 Goal: $1.475 Million

2014 Q3: $1,213,552

2014 Forecast: $1.55 Million


  • MCC pouring rights

  • 90% membership retention rate

  • Partner marketing campaign renewals

So, as you can see our highly motivated and accountable team has performed admirably and serves the industry well. Even though a Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal headline touted the series of major conventions and events we hosted this summer as the Best. Summer. Ever, Meet Minneapolis and its hospitality partners are more focused on the future business we are working hard to confirm for the city. As we look to finish strong in 2014, the true test will be what we will be reporting at this time next year.  Next week in the Minute, we will share a few examples of our 2015 lineup of events we will be hosting. That list is comprised of a unique variety of repeat customers and first time events. The names may not be as recognizable as the “All Star” list we had for this year but they will all contribute to what will be another very busy year for the hospitality/tourism industry. So please join our Meet Minneapolis team in finishing 2014 strong and in carrying that momentum into 2015!




October 21, 2014

Nicollet Mall Update

Meet Minneapolis’ mission of marketing and selling our destination doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We rely on the great work of partners in the public and private sectors to accomplish the vision of becoming the Destination of Choice.

One of our crown jewels as a destination is Nicollet Mall.  After years of shifting population patterns and the emergence of suburban retail, Nicollet Avenue fell into decline in the middle part of the 20th century. In response, Nicollet Mall first debuted in 1968 in order encourage shoppers, residents and visitors back to downtown. The Mall is known by many names but one I have used is our Riverwalk, since I spent a number of years in the Alamo city.

So as we prepare our central business district for the thousands of new residents who will occupy the numerous residential projects that are underway, the relocation and expansion of businesses in new or repurposed office space, and for exciting new infrastructure like the new stadium, Nicollet Mall stands as one of the primary elements that brings everything together. So I am pleased to share an overview of the Nicollet Mall renovation project authored by Steve Cramer who heads the Minneapolis Downtown Council and sits on the Meet Minneapolis board of directors. While Steve has officially been in his job for less than a year, he hit the ground running and has had a major impact in a short amount of time. His past experience includes serving as a Minneapolis City Council member as the leader of Project for Pride in Living for a decade. Thanks Steve, for sharing your thoughts. 

Our Nicollet Mall has a storied history dating back to the iconic original design and construction in the mid 60’s. I remember first learning about its importance as a college student studying urban planning almost forty years ago. Nicollet Mall was one of several innovations highlighted as model approaches to city life.

This generation will see Nicollet Mall transformed into what the Downtown Council’s Intersections 2025 Plan calls a “must see destination”. Work toward that lofty goal is progressing on many fronts. I thought this would be a good time for an update. Here is the status of several key aspects of this important project for downtown.

Design: Renowned design firm James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) was retained last year and produced a concept design focused on: enhanced pedestrian flow by creating a free walk zone adjacent to buildings along with raised intersections; dramatically increased greening by devoting close to 20% of the public right of way to trees and plantings compared to the current 3%; and incorporation of several signature features to encourage active use of the Mall. Over the past several months JCFO’s approved concept design has been the subject of intensive meetings with property owners and businesses along the Mall to insure that what is ultimately built works well and as intended. That process will continue for the next couple months.

Finance: It was welcome news earlier this year when the legislature and Governor Dayton allocated $21.5 million to the Nicollet Mall project. In addition, Mayor Hodges has proposed $3.5 million from Minneapolis as part of her 2015 budget, and indications are there is City Council support for this amount. So ½ the $50 million cost will come from these direct public sources. In the past, Nicollet Mall was built and then rebuilt (in the late 80’s) primarily using funds from downtown property assessments. This time around, assessment dollars will match the $25 million from the state and city, equaling 50% of total cost. Meetings will be held throughout downtown starting soon to lay out the proposed assessment plan well in advance of any formal action to put them in place. It is expected assessments for the new Nicollet Mall will begin with taxes payable in 2016.

Schedule: There is not quite a reliable, final schedule to report. A private sector construction manager will be on board before the end of the year, and will work with stakeholders to lock down the construction calendar. In broad outline utility work will likely start in spring, 2015, with the street improvements to follow. The entire project will be wrapped up before the end of 2016, with the opening of the new Vikings Stadium as a desired target for substantial completion.

Livability: As important as finalizing and building a great design is to success, equally critical is developing a comprehensive approach to addressing livability issues present downtown, often concentrated on the Mall. A key goal of the Downtown Council’s 2025 Plan is to end street homelessness. Taking off from that starting point, a broad-based Working Group of public officials, private sector representatives and community agencies has been meeting for several months to craft such an approach. The members have taken a careful look at topics like panhandling, loitering, aggressive behaviors, and homelessness. To be effective, our strategy must continue and expand the efforts already undertaken downtown which work (e.g., street outreach and targeted prosecution of chronic offenders), introduce new promising initiatives (e.g. public education, providing productive daytime activities and expanding shelter hours), and find the right balance between prevention, diversion and enforcement as there is a role for each. When the Working Group’s report is complete I will write a more detailed summary of the recommended approach since this is a topic of great interest to many.

Programming: If we can think about the new Mall as a tapestry, outstanding design is one key strand, and an effective livability strategy another. The third element to be woven in is robust programming to activate the Nicollet Mall in a positive and constantly interesting, engaging way. As I mentioned the JCFO plan features many elements which create the opportunity for a greatly enlivened Nicollet Mall. Our challenge will be to take full advantage of that opportunity.

As you can see much work has and is occurring, but much also lies ahead. The many people working hard on this project feel a keen responsibility to “get it right”. My current judgment – so far, so good!




October 14, 2014

Helping to Keep You Informed 

The mission of Meet Minneapolis is to market, sell and maximize the visitor experience of Minneapolis for the economic benefit of our community. Our role also extends to providing resources when questions arise from our local travel/hospitality industry. In this regard, our team has proactively compiled resources to help assist you in better understanding the current Ebola crisis and its impact on our local travel/hospitality industry. 

As you know, the Ebola crisis is a continuing and changing story across the world. Currently there are no confirmed U.S. cases outside of the state of Texas but everyone in the hospitality community takes this issue very seriously. We are monitoring it and will help keep you abreast of any important information. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is not recommending a travel ban and Dr. Frieden, the CDC director, in fact, has stated that the best way to protect ourselves is not to seal off countries, but to work to contain the disease there.1 Therefore, we await further direction from the CDC and state and local authorities if any action should become necessary. 

Our concern above all is for the health and well-being of affected individuals. While none of us wish to face this terrible disease on our homeland, it is important to listen to the advice of public health officials and actively help educate travelers to the facts as they emerge.

Our marketing communications manager, Kristen Montag, has led our efforts to compile Ebola resources and information for our partners and clients. We believe that the following resources are reliable sources of current information about the status of Ebola and its effect on the U.S. For further information, please refer to the websites set forth below. 

At the national level, the U.S. Travel Association serves as one of the most vocal advocates for our industry. Its president, Roger Dow, has been in close contact with federal officials and has concluded that "the responsible, deliberate approach by the federal government so far not only keeps the traveling public safe, but also preserves the ideals so intrinsic to our American way of life."2

In a press release dated Oct. 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security's Customs & Border Protection (CBP) announced they will begin new layers of entry screening at five U.S. airports that receive over 94 percent of travelers from the Ebola-affected nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. New York's JFK International Airport began the new screening last Saturday. The enhanced entry screening at Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O'Hare and Atlanta international airports will be implemented this week.

Governor Dayton and Minnesota U.S. Senators Franken and Klobuchar have subsequently formally expressed their desire to include the enhanced Ebola screenings for passengers from affected countries at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

We will continue to stay in contact with the U.S. Travel Association and the Metropolitan Airport Commission and will help provide you with ongoing updates as they become available to Meet Minneapolis.

We know that you join us in keeping the welfare of those affected by this crisis in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your partnership with Meet Minneapolis.






October 7, 2014

Staying on Top of Your Game

Some years ago, San Francisco's destination marketing organization ran an ad in a trade magazine that showed a group of awestruck convention visitors looking up at the Golden Gate Bridge. The ad's headline read "the problem won't be getting your convention delegates to come to San Francisco... the problem is getting them to go home." I was among those who saw the ad as arrogant but couldn't argue with the fact that there was some truth to the message.

My friend and colleague Todd Klingel, head of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber and his counterpart from the St. Paul Area Chamber, Matt Kramer, recently led a delegation of business, civic and governmental leaders on its 13th Annual Intercity Leadership Visit to San Francisco. The visits are designed to "learn about city and regional best practices," according to the program description.

Traveling to San Francisco lent itself to a major focus on the travel and tourism industry and many of the attendees had direct ties to our industry, including several current and former Meet Minneapolis board members. A testament to the allure of San Francisco as a destination is the fact that so many people extended the trip before or after our official business.

We were treated to such picture postcard iconic sites as the Embarcadero, the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge, complete with just enough fog to slightly obscure it. I suspect that there's a secret fog making machine that creates on demand fog when visitors are nearby.  

One of the most interesting presentations was from Joe D’Allesandro, president and CEO of The San Francisco Travel Association, the official tourism marketing organization for San Francisco. A promotional video he showed our group described his team and local industry professionals as "curators of the most interesting 49 square miles on the planet." This reminds me of Austin, Texas, and its "Keep Austin Weird" campaign.

That day he was sporting an authentic Giants jersey with his name on it. He was also enjoying a breather between two major annual corporate conventions put on by Bay Area companies: Oracle OpenWorld and its 65,000 attendees had just wrapped with's Dreamforce conference on the way with an expected 100,000 attendees. No doubt, every one of the 35,000 rooms contained within San Francisco's 49 square miles would be occupied and/or priced appropriately for the demand at those times. Joe also noted that research showed that 92 percent of San Francisco visitors want to come back, so leisure tourism fills in any hotel occupancy gaps. So what could Joe possibly have to worry about? Here are some of his potential worries:

  • He has regular competitors like San Diego, New Orleans or Orlando;
  • His city is landlocked with a limited ability to grow the actual city population;
  • Their median home price in excess of $1 million;
  • The city has widespread homelessness;
  • There is extreme congestion and long commute times;
  • They have a convention center with limited contiguous exhibit space (he noted that the MCC occasionally comes up as an alternative to his Moscone  Center based on our flexibility and functionality.)

As hard as it might be to feel sympathy for Joe and his fellow 76,000 travel and hospitality professionals, some of the obstacles noted above actually have the potential to stifle their growth. But it is clear that local boosters won't threaten the production of their golden goose.

The local travel and tourism industry has taken steps to protect and grow its impact with a major initiative like forming a Tourism Improvement District (TID).  This hotel self-assessment funding model ensures that dedicated destination marketing funds are administered by a diverse tourism industry-led board. The initiative has grown The San Francisco Travel Association's budget to more than $32 million annually. D’Allesandro says that this model takes the politics out of tourism marketing. He says they still have a close working relationship with their local government but they have the ability to take positions on issues affecting the industry that may sometimes differ with local government. The San Francisco travel and tourism industry has developed the trust of local government that it has the expertise and insight to make the best decisions to grow the industry. It is clear that the strategy is working and that the public and private sectors are on the same page.

This is just one way that the San Francisco travel and tourism industry will ensure that people will continue to leave their hearts there for years to come.




September 30, 2014

Safety First

One of the amazing aspects of working in the meetings and events world is the relationships that endure even as people take on different responsibilities.  One such instance is the transition of former City of Minneapolis City Coordinator Paul Aasen to his new responsibilities as the president of the Minnesota Safety Council. As City Coordinator, Paul was responsible for monitoring the contract Meet Minneapolis has with the City. Since the City makes a significant investment in Meet Minneapolis, Paul was in essence, our biggest customer.  

As president of the Minnesota Safety Council, he is a different type of customer as his organization is a long time user of the Minneapolis Convention Center as the site of its annual convention. I caught up with Paul recently and we discussed... safety. Imagine that!  But he did pique my interest in how his world interacts with the travel/hospitality industry. He was willing to share a few thoughts that I have included in this week’s Minute.

  • What is the mission of the Minnesota Safety Council?  

The Safety Council was formed in 1928 by the State of Minnesota to work on traffic safety issues – a new issue at the time. The Council’s charge was broadened shortly after to include promoting and protecting the safety of all Minnesotans. 

  • What are some safety issues that you have observed that may impact hospitality and travel related businesses?

When most people think about workplace safety, they picture people in hardhats and safety vests working in a factory or on a construction site. Most people don’t realize that every workplace has its own safety considerations.  

The hospitality and travel industry faces a series of common risks like cuts, falls and slips, burns, back strains and chemical exposure. But they add up! The injury rate in the hospitality and travel sector is nearly identical to the manufacturing sector.

  • How do you measure “safety ROI” and how can a business put these principles into practice?

Safety ROI comes in at least two forms.

First, no one wants to see their co-workers or employees or friends or family get hurt on-the-job. The human, social and personal cost of injury is clearly something we all want avoid. Each one of us expects to come home from work safely every day.

Second, injuries equal lost time, lost productivity, lost earnings and maybe workers compensation and insurance claims. Each of these impacts the bottom line. Occupational injuries are estimated to cost the U.S. economy about $200 billion each year. An injury that requires a medical consultation will total on average $39,000 in employer, administrative and insurance costs.

  • What can a business do to be proactive in embracing safety as part of its culture?

Leadership and training in that order! It does start at the top. Company leadership makes or breaks a safety culture. If an organization’s leaders make a point of promoting safety, current research shows their business will have fewer injuries even without more training or safety gear. The employees react to the fact that safety matters and they follow existing safety procedures rather than taking short cuts.

Strong leadership paired with effective training and refreshers takes the culture one step further. Training remains a great safety reminder and helps keep priority safety practices on the front burner. Training also helps people find ways to make safety a daily practice like starting staff meetings with a safety message.  

No one goes to work with the intention of working in an unsafe way but unless we are given permission to take the time to be safe followed with proper training, we will all take shortcuts on old familiar tasks and that’s when people get hurt.

Thanks to Paul for sharing his insights. Feel free to reach out to the Minnesota Safety Council at




September 23, 2014

Strike While the Iron is Hot

I was recently contacted by a business associate who was looking for a room in downtown Minneapolis for an upcoming trip and he could not find one. Many people have shared similar stories with me. My colleague did eventually find a room outside of the downtown core and he was shocked that the rate was $300. He was surprised at the strength of our hospitality market this time of year. 

As painful as it might be for visitors, strong hotel demand and the commensurate higher rates are the signs of a healthy hospitality market.  In fact, according to Meet Minneapolis’ Director of Market Research Kevin Hanstad, signs of our hot hotel market include: 

  • Hotel occupancy and RevPAR (revenue per available room) set all-time records for the month of August;
  • ADR (average daily rate) was the second-highest on record for an August;
  • 2014 year-to-date occupancy versus year-ago is up 0.8 percent, while ADR grew 5.7 percent and RevPAR, 6.6 percent;
  • Minneapolis ADR growth exceeds that of the Total U.S.; occupancy and RevPAR growth rates trail those of the total US;
  • Minneapolis is far ahead of the peer set on pacing (a measure of future business on the books) as of July 31, 2014: 101 percent versus 83 percent, respectively.

Our official peer set of cities is comprised of Chicago, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New Orleans, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Dallas. So to have such a strong month within that set of competitors speaks well of the current state of our market. 

Another harbinger of a strong economy is the unemployment rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area had a July 2014 unemployment rate 4.2 percent compared to a national rate of 6.5 percent.   We lead our set of cities in terms of employment, as well:

Metropolitan Area

July Unemployment Rate

Minneapolis -St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI






New Orleans 


Kansas City 






The strong growth in our economy has been quietly affecting the local hospitality/travel industry with hotel properties changing owners, continued renovation planning in existing hotels and more and more inquiries from developers looking to add or acquire hotels in our market.   

Meet Minneapolis initiated a feasibility study in late 2012 to inform us as to how a 1,000-room property would fare in our market. Clearly, there would be a period of absorption that would impact existing hotels and a cash or noncash subsidy would be required. But the other side of the coin is that the study also stated that 1,000 rooms would be added through other means during that same period in multiple smaller projects due to the growth in the market. We see that beginning to happen. While there are pros and cons associated with subsidizing a large hotel project, our market performance does indicate that we can support more rooms. The question is how many and where should they be? 

So there is something to be said for striking while the iron is hot in terms of leveraging growth. The unprecedented growth in our market gives us the opportunity to shape our future. We have proven that we can compete with other cities with more physical facilities in terms of convention center size and total hotel rooms within a close proximity to the center. But how much more can we grow the jobs, visitor spending and associated city, county and state tax proceeds in with a viable plan to increase our hotel capacity? 




September 16, 2014

Destination Development Rochester Style

We have regularly touted the significant destination assets that are online or are in the pipeline for Minneapolis such as light rail expansion, Nicollet Mall transformation, stadium development, hotel renovations and expansions, new restaurants, theaters and the like. These public and private investments will help ensure we have bright future as a destination.

But the community of Rochester, our neighbor 80 miles to the south, has bold plans to catapult itself into another tier as a destination with its Destination Medical Center (DMC) initiative. Last year, Governor Dayton signed legislation to form the Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMCC) that is led by an eight member board and charged with the responsibility of implementing "an innovative economic development initiative to secure Minnesota's status as a global medical destination now and in the future," according to the DMC website. Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is one of those eight board members.

According to, "Destination Medical Center (DMC) is an innovative economic development initiative to secure Minnesota's status as a global medical destination now and in the future."

The overview continues: "Today's competitive health care environment is driving a small number of select medical institutions to emerge as leaders in delivering the highest quality medical care and attracting patients and visitors from throughout the world. Mayo Clinic's continued success in Minnesota depends on Rochester's ability to sustain quality access, development, service and public infrastructure necessary to remain competitive with other destination medical centers in the U.S. and abroad."

Delta Air Lines has also taken notice of the growing opportunity in Rochester as it has added nonstop service to Detroit and Atlanta that started on Sept. 14. Visitors from 225 cities can now reach Rochester with only one stop. This move by Delta, prompted by the DMC project, provides Rochester with a tangible destination asset that greatly enhances that city's marketability.  

Minneapolis is, of course, becoming more entrenched in the medical market with the imminent opening of Mayo Clinic Square. Alatus, led by Meet Minneapolis board officer Bob Lux, announced the partnership with the Minnesota Timberwolves | Lynx and Mayo Clinic, to transform the property formerly known as Block E to Mayo Clinic Square. Mayo Clinic Square will be home to the Timberwolves’ and Lynx’s practice facilities.

From speaking to my counterpart at the  Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau, Brad Jones, I learned that he is deeply involved in initiatives designed guide his community's growth in such a way that it would appreciably improve their competitive position as a destination.

I applaud the Rochester community for their aggressive destination development  initiatives. They have been a force in state and regional meetings as well as youth sports, and DMC will make them even more so. I'm not sure what else they have on the drawing board and I know Brad is not going to tell me all of his secrets. What I do know is that we must remain vigilant in our destination development efforts because  no one else is standing still.





September 9, 2014

To Protect and to Serve

Another Minnesota State Fair has come and gone as summer comes to a close. What has also come to an end is the annual tradition of the joint law enforcement presence in downtown Minneapolis  comprised of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), Hennepin County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) and Metro Transit Police. This collaboration has continued to grow over the last few years.

We have spoken numerous times in the Meet Minneapolis Minute about the unusually busy summer of conventions and special events we would be hosting. Now that we look back on a busy and safe series of events, we are thankful for the professional and courageous way in which our law enforcement agencies have protected citizens and visitors alike.

First Precinct Inspector "Rondo" Arradondo, announced one of his first priorities after his appointment to that post by MPD Chief Janee Harteau, was to seek out Meet Minneapolis regarding the big summer of events so that he could make the appropriate resource and personnel deployments. He and his team have remained in close contact with us throughout the summer.

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington, who took on that position in 2012 after a distinguished career in the Minnesota Senate and Saint Paul Police Department, has led the department to a higher profile in our downtown as more transit options for visitors are available.

The HCSO is the third agency involved in protecting our downtown visitor zone during the summer. I had the opportunity to do a ride along with an HCSO deputy recently. The deputies whom I observed handled traffic stops, shooting investigations and warrants service in a calm and yet vigilant manner. I must admit that my heart raced on a couple of occasions during the half shift I "worked." I don't plan to give up the day job.

Assistant MPD Police Chief Matt Clark is already preparing for another big event as he will serve as MPD's point person on the joint task force of law enforcement and intelligence agencies that will collaborate here in February 2018 for Super Bowl LII. Talk about planning ahead.

We all owe these law enforcement professionals our appreciation for ensuring the quality of life we enjoy, as well as the experience we promise for our visitors.




September 2, 2014

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Our youngest daughter lives in San Antonio and is a hard core football fan.  She is ready for some football, even though her Dallas Cowboys didn’t show too much during the preseason. She is energized, however, by her fantasy football prospects this season and I see that she reached out to her Facebook family looking for advice on filling three spots on her league. I think she is a future Commissioner of her league.

New Vikings Coach Zimmer has shown that he is indeed ready for some football. He has led the Vikings to an undefeated preseason as we now prepare for opening day at St. Louis against the Rams. It seems fitting since St. Louis is also one of our top competitors in securing convention business. Although the Vikings will play two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium, it is still inspiring to see the great progress that Mortenson is making on the construction of the $1 billion+ facility that the team will occupy beginning in 2016. 

It may seem that we spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the merits of sports in our community, but this is an exciting time for our community that many around the country envy. One way for you to get ready for some football is to join the event that the Minneapolis Regional Chamber and Meet Minneapolis are hosting with the Vikings Huddle on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m.

Join us for breakfast with the Minnesota Vikings. Radio personality Paul Allen will interview players Greg Jennings and Brian Robison about the current season of play and working for a new coach. Executive Vice President & General Manager, Rick Spielman will comment on the state of the organization, plus an update on the new Minnesota Multi-Purpose Stadium by Lester Bagley. Lester is a Meet Minneapolis board member and somewhere along the way he picked up an Executive Vice President title, a much deserved promotion for the work he and many other leaders put in over the last decade to secure a stadium deal and a subsequent Super Bowl. 

The newly renovated and rebranded Radisson Blu Minneapolis is where the Vikings Huddle will take place. Steve Lindburg, the hotel’s General Manager promises us a great time at the second “Blu” we now have in the metro area. 

So, if you’re ready for some football we urge you to join us for the 2014 Vikings Huddle later this month. 




August 26, 2014

The Responsibility of Success

Many of my hotelier friends have been reluctant to herald the end of the recession. The most I get out of some of them is to express "cautious optimism" regarding our current state of the local hospitality/tourism industry. But it's hard to ignore the record high Minneapolis hotel occupancy and revenue for June and near record for July. The major groups we hosted back-to-back this summer fueled these records.

In the midst of this highly prosperous period, our local industry has also looked at the opportunity to give back to those who may have had fewer opportunities by a number of activities that fall under the banner of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Meeting Professionals International (MPI) defines CSR as "the responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society, the environment and its own prosperity, known as the ‘triple bottom line’ of people, planet, and profit."

This broad definition provides a platform for virtually any public or private organization to participate. For example, Meet Minneapolis partnered with MPI to create CSR Central during the recently held World Education Congress. Along with sponsors metroConnections, Minneapolis Marriott City Center, The Renaissance Depot Hotel Minneapolis, Minneapolis Marriott Northwest, and Thrivent Financial, we were able to affect eight nonprofits with the following results:

  • 16 bikes built for the Washburn Center for Children;

  • 96 backpacks stuffed for Minneapolis Public Schools;

  • 927 cans of food sorted for Emergency Food Shelf Network, Second Harvest Heartland, and Matter;

  • 15 furniture pieces painted for Bridging;

  • 500 hygiene kits assembled for Simpson Housing Services;

  • 85 blankets tied for Project Linus.

This CSR Central idea, championed by our very own Scott Romane of Sports Minneapolis, will be replicated in other forms in the coming months and years.

On another front, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge reached Meet Minneapolis on multiple fronts. The sales team from the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis challenged our Meet Minneapolis destination sales team to participate. The team's response was to willingly take the challenge and to donate to the ALS effort. Brent Foerster and I were subsequently nominated "called out" by John Power and Patrick Clemons of the Loews Minneapolis Hotel to take the challenge. We took the challenge and were able to include mascots from our partner sports franchises:

  • The Loon from Minnesota United Football Club

  • Viktor the Viking from Minnesota Vikings

  • Prowl from Minnesota Lynx

  • T.C. Bear from Minnesota Twins

Check out this video and see why I am so glad I had a change of clothes that day.


One final example of CSR is the upcoming Night of Hope being sponsored by YouthLink, which has a vision of "empowering youth to shape their futures by providing a safe, supportive, respectful and responsive community of excellence. YouthLink is the place where the END of homelessness and the END of poverty begin for youth served." I am fortunate enough to serve on YouthLink's board and to co-chair the Night of Hope.

On the night of Sept. 28th, YouthLink is joining forces with local corporate executives and business leaders to raise funds and awareness about youth homelessness.

Frances D. Roen, director of Development at YouthLink has this to say, 'Whether you are the vice president of a Fortune 500 company or an executive of a local business, you can make a difference in the lives of youth experiencing homelessness. The Night of Hope: Executive Sleep Out at YouthLink will be a chance for all of us to rally around this critical issue, learn from each other, and understand how we can change the trajectory of young people’s lives. This is an intentional movement to help our young people refocus, rebuild, and reclaim their futures.”

In an effort to recreate the conditions homeless youth face every night, I will be joining more than 50 execs who will spend the night outside with little more than a sleeping bag. Also on board for this event are Meet Minneapolis board members Todd Klingel and Steve Cramer along with former Meet Minneapolis board members Mark Stenglein and Sen. Scott Dibble. Minneapolis City Council Member Blong Yang, Hennepin County Commission/Chair Mike Opat, BOMA Executive Director Kevin Lewis, and Marquette Hotel General Manager Todd Temperly. For information on the Night of Hope, check out:

“Research shows that providing support and resources to young people experiencing homelessness will decrease the likelihood they will become chronically homeless adults." said Frances "Through collaboration with the business community – through the Night of Hope and other initiatives – we can maximize our efforts, and help these young people move out of homelessness and toward a better future.”

It's gratifying to see our business and community leaders living out CSR in so many ways.  Thank you all for your commitment to giving back as a way of life.  




August 19, 2014

Building Our Future

Mayor Hodges gave her first budget address last week to an overflow audience in City Council chambers. She remained true to the priorities she articulated at her inaugural: 

  • Run the City well;
  • Grow the City; and
  • Close the gap in employment and education between the races.

The Mayor noted that we “voted for something bigger than each of us” and that sentiment truly resonated with me in terms of her engagement in travel and tourism issues. The Mayor has had extensive contact with Meet Minneapolis’ activities over the years she served as the Ways and Means Committee chair for City Council. As Mayor, she joined us for client events during MPI and she recently attended the Meet Minneapolis board meeting. 

Meet Minneapolis has submitted a City budget request that, if fully funded, will help us compete more effectively with our peer cities with larger budgets. The request we have made focuses on tangible growth in the local travel/hospitality industry through a variety of new and expanded programs that we have bundled under the banner of Building Our Future. The programs are: 

Minneapolis Visitor Information Center

This will be the first stop for visitors and serve as a gateway to our great neighborhoods throughout the entire City. Visitors will start in downtown Minneapolis but will be able to take the METRO, a bike or their own two feet to see all that Minneapolis has to offer. This new center at 5th and Nicollet will complement the soon-to-be revamped Visitor Information Center at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  These two centers which anchor both ends of Nicollet Mall will provide our partner businesses the opportunity to engage more with visitors and provide reasons for longer stays, resulting in more revenue for local businesses and tax receipts.

Advertising and Promotions

One of the meeting planner panelists we heard from during the Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress surmised that Minneapolis doesn’t have a product problem, it has a promotion problem. Many of the attendees to the recently held MPI events commented on how pleasantly surprised they were at all we have to offer visitors. While our marketing team has done a great job in creatively promoting Minneapolis through cost-effective digital means and through earned media, paid media still plays a big role in influencing buying decisions. We must allocate more resources to awareness building.

Sports Minneapolis

Beyond the Super Bowls, Final Fours, All-Star Games and the many other marquee events that we have hosted or will be hosting the future, there are many more amateur and youth sporting events of all shapes and sizes that don’t grab headlines. Our research also shows that many of these events take place during our need occupancy times of the year and are inflation proof. The added focus Sports Minneapolis will bring needed business to the community when it really needs it. 

Comprehensive Convention Welcome Program

This will allow us to provide the type of welcome amenities that we provide for groups like the All-Star Game. This level of attention to the needs of convention attendees will encourage additional spending and potential future visits. Our partner companies play a significant role in providing the goods and services to attendees. We want all convention attendees to feel as though we appreciate them regardless of the size of the group.

Grant Funding for Convention Business

More and more, convention and event organizers require the host city to financially support their activities as a condition of sale. Meet Minneapolis and its counterparts around the country must frequently make decisions as to how much to support prospective groups based on an expected return on investment. This cost of doing business is one of many sales strategies cities employ to confirm business.   

So, we thank the Mayor for her hands-on approach to travel and tourism marketing and the recognition of the revenue our industry generates and the jobs that it supports. We feel that by growing the local travel/hospitality industry we can help her focus on her three big priorities by continuing to efficiently and effectively market the City in a very competitive marketplace; growing the City by boosting hospitality employment in Minneapolis and closing the gap employment by providing hospitality and tourism employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for the many minorities and immigrants who are able to support their families by working in the industry.



August 12, 2014

Under The Radar

Our recent community successes such as hosting the MLB All-Star Game, Meeting Professionals International's World Education Congress, securing the Super Bowl and pursuing an NCAA Final Four may give the mistaken impression that we only pursue the highest profile events. While it is fun and gratifying to be involved in these big name happenings, Meet Minneapolis and its partners actually spend the vast majority of the time focusing on not-so-well-known pursuits, like National Senior Games.

One such lesser known victory is the 2015 National Senior Games which is produced by the National Senior Games Association (NSGA). Under the banner of the Three Cities One Destination initiative, Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Bloomington successfully wooed the NSGA officials and secured the 2015 biannual National Senior Games. Cleveland and Houston were hosts in 2013 and 2011 respectively.

Meet Minneapolis former board chair Dave Mona and current Meet Minneapolis board secretary Susan Adams Loyd enthusiastically joined together to chair the local organizing committee efforts for our metro area. Dave is a well-known communications executive, author and sports legend, while by day Susan leads the area's Clear Channel Communications Outdoor division. She moonlights, however, as a world class sprinter who will be a favorite to win gold in the 2015 games. I don't suppose there's any prohibition to leading the host committee and winning a medal in the same event.

Beth Pinkney, Minnesota’s 2015 National Senior Games executive director says the goal next year is to attract 13,000 athletes to participate in 19 different qualifying sports and three demo sports (disc golf, judo and baseball). The three main hubs of sports activities will be the Minneapolis Convention Center, University of St. Thomas and University of Minnesota. Additionally these senior athletes have disposable income and often bring family members in order to make a vacation of the trip. We expect a estimated $35 million dollar economic impact in the community next summer from the games. 

One intentional strategy to ensure the success of our 2015 event was to enhance the 2014 Minnesota Senior Games in an effort to promote the 2015 National Senior Games. This would expose potential 2015 participants with some of the competition sites and build excitement for next year. According to Beth Pinkney the recently completed Minnesota State Games exceeded all expectations and will give us the momentum needed to make next July’s games a success. 

So, we are still working to make next summer as special as this one has been. Be sure to check out the National Senior Games website for more information and be on the lookout for more details from Meet Minneapolis as to how you can participate as an athlete or in welcoming them to the community. Just because the National Senior Games may have been under the radar it still helps to support thousands of hospitality/tourism jobs so let’s all step up to support this fantastic event.

More Info >>>




August 5, 2014

Seeing is Believing

Fodder for this column comes easier some weeks than others.  But it was clear that I had to share some thoughts this week on a major event we are currently hosting, the 2014 Meeting Professionals International – World Education Congress (MPI-WEC) which began on August 2 and ends tomorrow.  The meetings are being held at the award-winning Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC), although we have exposed this group of influential travel executives to the such iconic sites as the Mill City Museum and the Mississippi River, the Walker Arts Center, and Orchestra Hall/Peavey Plaza to name a few. 

Almost 2,000 of our closest meetings industry friends and colleagues have converged in Minneapolis and aside from the pride a destination has in showcasing itself to (sometimes envious) peers, hosting MPI-WEC and other events that bring meetings and events decision makers to town serves several objectives.

Sowing Seeds for Future Success

Just as we have seen this summer as the culmination of sales and marketing efforts over the last 3-5 years which resulted in the MLB All-Star Game, Shriners International, USA Volleyball Girls’ Jr. Nationals and MPI, hosting the WEC supercharges our future sales opportunities.  Our budget couldn’t support the expense associated with bringing in hundreds of professional meeting specialists one at a time. So, having hundreds of meeting and event planners who actually pay their own way to come here is a dream come true.  Our sales team has identified at least 31 strong prospective accounts which, if actualized, will generate over 150,000 future room nights and nearly $86 million in estimated economic impact.  So a summer in which we have seen a record-setting June in hotel occupancy will not remain an anomaly.  

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Over the last five years, we have seen steady growth in the number of hospitality/tourism jobs held by Minneapolis residents.  That growth continued even during our most recent recession. The total jobs number is expected to eclipse 30,000 by next year which is  formidable.  The visual impact of these jobs is less because so many of these ladies and gentlemen are working behind the senses to ensure that audio-visual presentations are delivered flawlessly, guests are checked in promptly, floral deliveries arrive at the proper hotel or venue on time, appetizing meals are prepared and served with precision and visitors are safely transported to their respective local destinations.  As it is with many of our service industry professionals, their hard work and dedication serve as the soundtrack to a great destination experience. Hosting a group like MPI helps to keep these hard-working folks employed and able to support their families.

Creating New Ambassadors

During MPI, our team as well as volunteers and partners have frequently commented on how often our guests say that they have not been here before but are anxious to come back.  One of the guests we hosted for a client event actually is advocated that we rename our City Minne-fabulous! 

Even though those of us employed in the hospitality/travel industry would understandably express passion about the attributes of our city, hearing kudos from guests who in turn influence destination buying decisions helps us tell the story in a more credible manner.

The date and time of our Meet Minneapolis board meeting was changed in part to coincide with MPI. The board meeting was held at the MCC to allow a panel of meeting planners who are here attending the WEC to share insights with our board. They represented Enterprise Holdings (Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo and National Car Rental); MPI; Experient, A Maritz Travel Company;  RBC Wealth Management; and the Higher Education User Group. They were all very complimentary of Minneapolis and our destination assets although they did share some of their perceived concerns about how we stack up as a destination.  However, at the end of the day the consensus was that we are an extremely competitive and viable destination that will be on their radar.  And since we know that meeting professionals frequently compare notes, we can be assured of several new top notch ambassadors.

Panelist Amanda Armstrong, Enterprise Holdings’  Corporate Meetings & Travel Manager said it best regarding her experience here….Seeing is believing. 

Please be on the lookout for more detailed updates on the impact of MPI in upcoming issues of The Minute.



July 29, 2014


Meet Minneapolis team members and other destination marketing organization (DMO) professionals have the opportunity to engage with our respective domestic and international peers during the Annual Convention of the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI). I was able to participate in this recently held forum where the results of  a major research study commissioned by DMAI called DestinationNEXT was released.  According to DMAI, DestinationNEXT was conceived to "provide DMOs with practical, clear actions and strategies for sustainable success in a dramatically changing world." The actual study was compiled based on responses from more than 300 DMOs in 36 countries. Our Director of Market Research has begun to thoroughly delve into the study for its applications to Meet Minneapolis, however there are three areas that stood out for me when I first reviewed the study:

  1. Dealing With the New Marketplace: Broadcast to Engagement
    Key Takeaways: Engage customers in a two way conversation and optimize the  use of business intelligence.
  2. Building and Protecting the Destination Brand: Destination Managers
    Key Takeaways: Assume a stronger leadership role in destination advocacy and build platforms for an enhanced visitor experience.
  3. Evolving the DMO Business Model: Collaboration and Partnerships
    Key Takeaways: Engage more closely with non traditional stakeholders and become actively involved in broader economic development initiatives.

Our partners and stakeholders should be comforted by the fact that our team has already been hard at work in these key areas.  

For example, our recently launched #askMPLS served thousands of visitors and generated millions of impressions in social media during All-Star Game week. This is just one of the latest interactive visitor engagement strategies we have employed.

In the area of being stewards of the destination, Meet Minneapolis has been a strong advocate for new assets like museums, stadiums and events that enhance our marketability. And we are in the midst of developing a new state-of-the-art visitor information center we plan to debut in the Spring of 2015.

We have also begun to take a look introspectively at what the Meet Minneapolis of the future will look like. Our department heads have provided their initial looks at what their respective departments will look like in the next three to five years.  

Meet Minneapolis' team of destination sales and marketing professionals work hard to remain equipped to represent and integrate the myriad assets that comprise the City by Nature experience for our visitors. Based on some of the initiatives and projects I learned about during the recent DMAI conference in destinations like Louisville, Austin, Washington, DC, Atlanta and Cleveland to name a few, we have to stay vigilant and proactive.

To get a glimpse into how Meet Minneapolis continues to address future sales and marketing challenges in a proactive manner that will keep us in the game I invite you to mark your calendars for August 19th for our 2015 Sales and Marketing Plan Preview. This event will take place at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Joining us at this event will give your business the tools it needs to be an integral component of our City by Nature now and into the future.




July 22, 2014

We Made History

We have just witnessed history. Perennial Yankees All-Star Derek Jeter leading off in the 85th Annual MLB All-Star Game (ASG) with a double, then scoring the first American League run in his ASG swan song. The venue, our beloved Target Field, is the baseball stadium that ESPN Magazine has called "The Best Stadium in North America." And that magical and historic night was capped off by our own Twins closer, Glen Perkins, retiring the NL side for an AL victory. 

History was also made in the high level of cooperation between the multiple public and private entities that came together to execute an All-Star Game that confirmed our ability to host the most high profile and complex events. In fact, the ASG was the largest event in terms of size and media attention we have hosted in the Minneapolis Saint Paul area since the 2008 Republican National Convention. Other historic moments included the 85th ASG being the most watched ever by Canadians and the largest U.S. audience since 2010. 

And when I saw the official hotel occupancy numbers for June, I was absolutely giddy. As a city, Minneapolis chalked up an 87.6 percent occupancy representing a 5.1 percent increase over the same period in 2013. This was a historic all-time high June for Minneapolis hotel occupancy. That news is a great precursor for the anticipated epic occupancy we expect the ASG and other events to drive for July when all of those stats are tallied.

For Meet Minneapolis, hotel occupancy is a direct barometer of the health of our travel/hospitality industry. The impact of the ASG was expressed by John Luke, general manager of our largest hotel, the Hilton Minneapolis, who said:

"Due to the efforts of your team and partnering with the hotels, restaurants and many other venues, Meet Minneapolis and our community were able to host guests from around the world for Volleyball Junior Nationals, Shriners, MLB All-Star Game and, soon, Meeting Professionals International. These events and many more that Meet Minneapolis have booked will showcase our great city and entice many more conventions, meeting and events for years to come."

But with all of the hoopla and accolades being bandied about, I want to take a moment to remind us of the cornerstone of the ASG victory we are all still savoring. That cornerstone is our home team, the Minnesota Twins.

The Minnesota Twins have been a stellar member of the MLB family since 1961. Through maintaining an impeccable relationship with the league and spearheading the construction and superior upkeep of Target Field, the Twins organization has been laying the groundwork for our most recent community victory for years. The Twins and other community leaders proclaimed the goal of hosting an ASG at least as early as 2008 while Target Field was still under construction.  

So, our heartfelt gratitude goes out to Meet Minneapolis board member and Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter and key members of his team including Matt Hoy, Kevin Smith and Laura Day for helping Minnesota make history again. Let's hope we won't need to wait another 29 years. 



July 15, 2014

It's Not Just A Fad

The Meet Minneapolis mission is to market, sell and maximize the visitor experience of Minneapolis for the economic benefit of our community.

Mission statements are often made up of meaningless or cliché-ish words that organizations only refer to on official occasions.  I am, however, proud to report on an initiative Meet Minneapolis has undertaken with Spong PR that brings our mission statement to life. That initiative is a Social Media Command Center (SMCC).  

Josh Anderson, Meet Minneapolis’ Web & Digital Operations Manager defines a SMCC as “A virtual concierge answering questions and welcoming people into the city. Our team of volunteers and social media professionals work together to assist visitors in real time while they are on the go and exploring our city. “

In short, the proactive use of social media allows us to maximize the visitor experience by offering a significantly higher level of responsiveness to a variety of visitor requests and supports our partners by connecting those requests to them so that they can sell their goods and services leading to economic benefit for our community.

Spong has been providing Meet Minneapolis a variety of their services and expertise such as social listening-and-sentiment-tracking through a proprietary tool designed to identify influencers and illuminate how the Minneapolis brand stands with the social sphere. In other words they are able to assess the aggregate opinions expressed about Minneapolis across various social media platforms at any given time. (We know what you’re tweeting!) Spong’s managing director is Julie Batliner, who serves as an executive committee member of Meet Minneapolis.

My first encounter with a formal social media command center was in during the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl in February of this year. The NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee indicated that its goal was to use social media to interact with the 400,000 visitors they anticipated during Super Bowl week. Their SMCC occupied a prominent space on 7th Avenue directly across from the Sheraton New York on Times Square. 

Spong and Meet Minneapolis used the MLB All Star Game as the opportunity to put a full-fledged SMCC into service. This well-oiled machine is operating out of Spong’s very cool offices near Target Field.

Julie Batliner describes the SMCC as “a hub of activity and camaraderie with some of the most seasoned social media experts in town. “She goes on to explain that “the inner-workings include a three-stage set up with Spong PR, Meet Minneapolis and other social experts working in harmony together to provide the best possible answer to people posting questions. The Spong team monitors and assign tweets to volunteers; the volunteers will provide recommendations alongside Meet Minneapolis; and the Meet Minneapolis team members review and publish the tweets. In this way, we're able to offer expertise quickly, but also ensure that we're handling the content in an organized manner and having several experts review each tweet to make sure the information is accurate and helpful.”

The SMCC team has had impressive results since it opened on Thursday: 

  • 2,206 tweets using #askMPLS
  • 17.3 million Twitter impressions
  • 770 people using the hashtag
  • 70+ partners helping answer questions

Our plans to continue with our SMCC activities throughout the year and we have grandiose plans to have a permanent high-profile SMCC in the not too distant future.  

Our Director of Market Research, Kevin Hanstad located some research from TripAdvisor’s TripBarometer survey which noted that nearly two-thirds of U.S. travelers report accessing social media while traveling. That same research notes that 8 in 10 people use their Smartphone while slightly fewer than half utilize a tablet to access travel related information. And as technology becomes more and more accessible and convenient, it stands to reason than social media engagement for travel related information will increase. I’m glad our team is already poised to leverage the SMCC resource.  

So, unlike the mood ring, the fanny pack, the pet rock, the Atari game system or the Backstreet Boys, it appears that the Social Media Command Center is not a fad. 





July 8, 2014

Mid-Year Recap

We have begun to experience the fruits of our community's labor of the past few years in hosting a series of major conventions and events this year that will likely result in an all-time record for the number of events and attendance our city. USA Volleyball has just wrapped up its Girls' Junior Nationals. The Shriners International are now in town honoring us with their presence as they pursue the goal of providing children with critical surgeries and other life saving procedures. And MLB's All Star Game has already begun to make its presence known as their FanFest moves into the exhibit halls at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

But in spite of the present success, Meet Minneapolis is acutely aware of securing future business opportunities that will allow us to celebrate in future years the way we are celebrating 2014. As a sales and marketing organization, Meet Minneapolis must closely monitor its future production targets and  after six months into the year, I would like to report on our progress on our four key performance indicators (KPI). 

Future Group Room Nights Confirmed

Recording the Super Bowl in the second quarter naturally allowed us to shatter our booking goal. Our sales team had a number of other victories including securing the American Industrial Hygiene Institute for 2019. Along with the Super Bowl, this is another head to head victory for us against New Orleans. But it's worth noting that our team would still be at nearly 100% of its YTD goal WITHOUT the counting the Super Bowl. 167% YTD is a great place to start the second half of the year. 

Future Leisure Room Nights Confirmed

After strengthening the tourism team with the addition of a Director of Tourism position to bolster the direct sales activity in our leisure area, we have seen great results and are on track to exceed the 65,000 room night goal. With the majority of our area's visitors coming here for non-business purposes, the work of our tourism team is critical in our goal to reach 37 million visitors to the metro area by 2017.

Minneapolis Convention Center Revenue

Meet Minneapolis is unique among destination marketing organizations (DMOs) in not only driving future room night sales but also producing convention center revenue. This solves the age old conflict that many DMOs and convention centers have in determining whether room night generation or direct convention center revenue has priority. This unique sales model helped us to achieve record revenue in 2013 and we are currently on pace to exceed our annual goal of $16.5 million as of June 30.

Private Revenue Generation

Our partners' financial investment in Meet Minneapolis augments the investment the City of Minneapolis makes and helps us to form the ideal public-private partnership to market our destination. Our partnership marketing team continues to offer unique cooperative marketing opportunities for our partners and YTD, our partners' support has helped us to be slightly ahead of pace in this area. Stay tuned for even more unique and effective marketing opportunities.

We are pleased at our progress so far but can't rest on our laurels. Our team continues to aggressively pursue its production goals even though we are in a very good place as we start the third quarter of the year. Thank you for your continued support.




July 1, 2014

Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent

In 2012 the Meet Minneapolis board of directors approved a five-year strategic plan entitled, “It’s A Whole New Playing Field.” This name was chosen in recognition of the radically altered landscape we will see by 2017 in terms of our hospitality and tourism infrastructure.  The 400 foot-tall crane that is being erected this week on the construction site of the new multipurpose stadium is the most recent visual testament to those radical changes.

New stadiums, hotels and transportation infrastructure are all necessary for us to remain competitive as a destination. But the infrastructure I speak of today is the human capital type.  In fact, our strategic plan clearly calls for Meet Minneapolis and the local hospitality and tourism industry to recruit and retain top talent.

We have an outstanding group of destination marketing professionals whose work day in and day out on behalf of our community is not often recognized. They are the mainstays of the $6.9 billion annually spent by visitors to the metro area. In addition to them, we are blessed this year with an extremely diverse group of 10 high school and college interns who all have high hopes and dreams. This is the largest number of interns we have had at any one time; every single operating department of Meet Minneapolis has at least one intern. These young professionals excel both academically and athletically and have a number of specialized skills including extensive multi-lingual capabilities. Their enthusiasm and diligence have renewed my hope that our leaders of tomorrow are well on their way to being prepared to take on more and more responsibility. 

The timing for these interns is particularly good with all of the major events and projects that are currently on our plate. We knew that 2014 would be an all-hands-on-deck year with hosting the MLB All-Star Game, Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress, National Conference of State Legislatures and USA Volleyball Girls Junior Nationals, to name a few. Add to these events our 2015 business planning that is taking place along with preparation for our new City of Minneapolis contract and we have a very special time for these interns to experience a flurry of productive activities that may not converge in this way again for some time to come.  

We have utilized a number of resources to secure these high-performing interns, including students from UW Stout and LaCrosse, Augsburg College and the University of Richmond. Several of them reached to us, one of them is actually a returning intern and our team worked various networks to find viable candidates. Two of them are from the Minneapolis Urban Scholars program, which provides students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds with a distinctive professional experience focused on gaining essential leadership skills and creating career pathways to positions of influence. This is a program of the City of Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights. We have also gathered top talent from the AchieveMpls Step-up Program, which connects businesses with the next generation of talented and diverse workers, provides critical job training and hands-on experience for Minneapolis youth and builds a stronger Twin Cities workforce for our knowledge-based global economy. We’re proud to say that one of our previous Step-up interns has made a career in destination marketing and has recently celebrated more than a decade of service to Meet Minneapolis.  

So, as we brace for the continued explosive growth our local travel and hospitality industry will experience in the coming years, let’s not forget the most essential ingredient in securing our success: top talent. We are extremely proud of the work that our interns and our permanent team members have done for Meet Minneapolis and the industry in which we make our living. 




June 24, 2014

Fierce Competition 

While soccer fans across the globe turn their attention to Brazil for a month-long competition during the World Cup, destinations across the U.S. engage in fierce competition year-round.

Destinations continue to aggressively invest in building assets that will make them more desirable in a highly competitive marketplace.  I thought I would recap some of the major investments that many destinations are making to enhance their destination appeal.

  • Atlanta recently broke ground on a new $1 billion stadium to replace the Georgia Dome that opened in 1992.  This new stadium is where the Falcons will play and that community, of course, where that city hopes to host another Super Bowl. 
  • Earlier this year we learned that New Orleans hotels agreed to self-impose a new room charge to that would go directly to the destination marketing budget for that community.
  • PortlandSan FranciscoSan Diego are among the cities that have formed Tourism Improvement Districts (TID) to help solidify their long term marketing budgets. According to the Tourism District Resource Center “a tourism business improvement district (TBID) is a stable source of funding for marketing efforts designed to increase occupancy and room rates for lodging businesses. Funds raised through a small (voluntary) assessment on lodging stays are used to provide services desired by and directly benefitting the businesses in the district."
  • Dallas suburb, Arlington, Texas, which is the home to both the MLB Texas Rangers and NFL Dallas Cowboys, is discussing a 1,000 room hotel project. 
  • Nashville recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the Music City Center convention complex that includes an 800 room Omni hotel 
  • Austin, another city that claims a musical heritage is also experiencing new infrastructure growth.  A 1,000+ room JW Marriott is scheduled to open in 2015, with plans unveiled for a 1,000 room Fairmont.
  • Earlier this year, Washington, DC saw the opening of its new 1,175 Marriott Marquis near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
  • Through its Houston First public-private development and facility management organization, Houston is developing a second 1,000 room hotel next to the George R. Brown Convention Center. The Marriott Marquis is set to open in 2016 with enough time to work out any bugs before Houston hosts the Super Bowl again in 2017.  

Our local leaders very astutely tell us that you can't build a church just for Easter Sunday.  If that was the case, and my small church in North Minneapolis had been temporarily larger, we no doubt could have accommodated many more worshippers on this past Easter Sunday.  But the context here is that Minneapolis cannot build infrastructure that it cannot sustain year round. 

However, as a community, it is vital for us to determine when to allow organic growth of tourism infrastructure such as the variety of hotel projects we now have underway in the community or to "jump start" initiatives that have a broader benefit such as our new multipurpose stadium project.   So the competition is one we cannot ignore.  We have to decide what tier city we want to be and figure out ways to make it happen. It's not just about trying to keep up with the joneses but making sure we are equipped to be the destination we want to be.  This is a match where we will have to carefully choose our next move.



June 17, 2014

If You Could Wave the Magic Wand

One of the great attributes of our community is its drive to avoid complacency.  While some might ask if we will sit back and relax now that we have landed the Super Bowl, the answer is an emphatic No!  We’ve got to strike while the iron is hot in terms of new events to attract to the community.  As we look for ways to constantly improve our destination’s marketability, I have asked several community leaders the following question:

If you could wave the magic wand, what one thing, if anything, would you do to enhance Minneapolis’ marketability as a destination?

Here are some of the answers we got. 


“I  would make Minneapolis the greenest city in America.

The Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen
Senior Pastor
Westminster Presbyterian Church


“Revolutionize the way we use the Mississippi river as central entertainment district. I would also like to see significant improvements to transportation infrastructure...specifically freeway and light rail improvements.”

Glen Gunderson
President and CEO
YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities


“I would open all the skyways at night and allow true retail commerce to flourish along those corridors “

Richard Copeland
THOR Construction
(Meet Minneapolis Board Member)


“Make panhandling on streets or intersections and sleeping in unsheltered areas such as parks and doorways unnecessary because we’ve solved homelessness and created housing, jobs and other opportunities for a life of dignity and respect for everyone in our great City.”  

Tim Marx
Chief Executive Officer
Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis


“I am not sure that we are missing anything.  We can improve our programming, the concept of an annual Minneapolis Marathon is great, but we do not need to wait for a “game changer”.  We need a Tourism campaign!  We need to tell the world that that they are missing out, if they are not visiting Minneapolis.  Minneapolis is still the best kept secret.”

Paul Wischermann
Wischermann Partners, Inc.
(Meet Minneapolis Board Member) 

These leaders have addressed a wide range of issues including sustainability, transportation, retail, and homelessness eradication.  Their choices of responses illustrate the many factors that relate to the tourism and hospitality industries.  I am convinced that the leaders we have in our community will continue to ensure that Minneapolis will be able to compete on the global stage.  I know from conversations my many hospitality industry professionals from across the country that Minneapolis is definitely back on the radar of many meeting and event planners.  We can all take pride in the progress we have made in becoming:  The Destination of Choice. I thank these leaders for weighing in and would welcome any of our readers to share their thoughts on this question. 

Email me your thoughts now >>>



June 10, 2014

How We Lead Matters

This is the title of Marilyn Carlson Nelson’s 2008 book which encompasses a series of short essays on leadership that she compiled from a lifetime of personal and professional encounters.  Business guru, Harvey Mackay describes the book as “a treasure trove of how she handled situations from Sunday school to meeting global leaders.” Mackay’s book, Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive topped the New York Times Bestseller List for 54 weeks. So his high praise of Marilyn truly resonates with many of us.  

Marilyn Carlson Nelson is also one of very few recipients of the Meet Minneapolis Lifetime Achievement Award. The year she received that award, she was also the keynote speaker at the Meet Minneapolis annual meeting. Due to her generosity, we were able to provide copies of Marilyn’s book to all of the annual meeting attendees, many of them with a personal message from her.  And for the record, the book’s official title is How We Lead Matters : Reflections on a Life of Leadership.

Marilyn led the successful effort to secure Super Bowl XXVI for our community in 1992. Her insights and relationships from that effort more than two decades ago played a significant role in our most recent success. And Marilyn’s entire demeanor as a hospitality expert and practitioner are traits that seem to be embedded within her DNA. Having had the opportunity to spend some time with her during our Super Bowl LII bid process, she was the voice that always drew us to fully consider the guest experience and how we can best tell that story. She focused on small, yet impactful details that many of us would have easily overlooked. She showed us that a leader doesn’t always have to take the most direct route to get to a destination.

As the Super Bowl bid team put the finishing touches on the submission to the NFL, one aspect of our story began to emerge as a real asset is the number of new and transformed hotel projects that are underway that will be available for the big 2018 party. The Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place in downtown Minneapolis, Hilton Minneapolis, and The Millennium are among those that have collectively invested in tens of millions to enhance our destination product. One other such project is the multimillion-dollar transformation of the Radisson Plaza Hotel Minneapolis into the new Radisson Blu Minneapolis, officially opening in July. This property becomes the second Radisson Blu in the metropolitan area and the fourth in North America. This certainly represented another proud moment for Marilyn.

FireLake Restaurant inside the new Radisson Blu Minneapolis also got a makeover and is now open for its many local fans including Meet Minneapolis’ own Bill Deef who has FireLake on his “A” list of personal dining options. 

So although Marilyn is no longer the Chair and CEO of Carlson, the legacy of hospitality she embodies will not ever be separated from the hotel brands she so passionately helped to develop and launch. Congratulations, Marilyn, on landing another Super Bowl and on the influence you had on the launch of a new brand. So whether in business or in civic pursuits, Marilyn continues to demonstrate through her success that how we lead does indeed matter. 




June 3, 2014

Man On A Mission

One of the greatest joys and privileges of my job is to have the opportunity to interact with people who make things happen in Minneapolis.  One of the individuals who really makes things happen, not only in the Minneapolis hotel market but nationally, is Paul Wischermann the president of Wischermann Partners.  Paul has been a Meet Minneapolis board member since 2009. You may not know his company by its name but will indeed know his projects. 

Paul Wischermann founded Wischermann Partners in 2002.  Paul is a creative business strategist and seasoned hospitality industry executive.  The firm’s vision - To Create Memorable Guest Experiences with World Class Brands - is based on the commitment to select, nurture and reward only the best in the industry, building a standard of excellence which guides all daily decisions.  For more information on Paul and Wischermann Properties check out this link:

I had an opportunity to ask Paul a few questions that I will share over the next couple of weeks in the Meet Minneapolis minute.

In what markets have you developed hotel projects? 

Wischermann Partners was founded in 2002.  The initial eight hospitality projects we were engaged with prior to 2008 were all exclusively located in Minnesota.  (Sheraton Minneapolis Midtown, Sheraton Duluth, Westin Minneapolis, Hotel Ivy – A Luxury Collection Hotel, W Minneapolis – The Foshay, Westin Edina Galleria, aloft Minneapolis and Sheraton St. Paul Woodbury).

In 2010, Wischermann Partners executed its first acquisition in partnership with a Minnesota-based equity fund, the Hilton Auburn Hills, consequently the following acquisitions and repositioning took place, all involving major renovations of the hotel assets:  Sheraton Chicago O’Hare, Sheraton Detroit Metro Airport, Sheraton Hartford South, Le Meridien Atlanta Perimeter, Le Meridien Chicago Oakbrook Center, Courtyard Minneapolis Downtown, Sheraton Bloomington, Hotel Ivy, Sheraton Charlotte and Le Meridien Charlotte.

Since Fall 2013, Wischermann Partners engaged in numerous new-build hotel developments.  The current pipeline includes:  Le Meridien Columbus - The Joseph, The Westin Nashville, The Westin Jackson, a dual-branded Marriott High-rise in New Orleans and a luxury hotel in Minneapolis.

Currently, Wischermann Partners operates a portfolio of 14 hotels with nearly 3,400 hotel rooms in the upper upscale and luxury segments.  Additionally, 5 hotels with 1,270 hotel rooms are in development.

What are some of the factors that help you determine where it makes sense to develop new projects?

Our mission of “creating memorable experiences with world-class brands” is our guiding principle.  We are searching for high quality opportunities in the upper upscale and luxury segments.  Equally important to location and the competitive environment is that the ownership group is aligned with our operational vision.  We have to be able to create value while applying expertise in order to justify our involvement; ultimately, we are seeking a market leadership position for our properties.

What is the most unique hotel project you have ever put together? 

I hindsight, it may well be The Westin Edina Galleria.  A mixed-use development involving, hotel, residences, retail, underground parking and a parking ramp, in total a $125 million project, which was completed within 3 years from the initial drawings to the opening in August 2008.  It is still is one of our flagship properties and we could not be more proud of it.

What is your take on marketing Minneapolis as a winter destination?

Minneapolis is one of the most dynamic cities in the United States.  Unfortunately, we are known for Minnesota winters, which are very harsh.  While we as residents have been able to adapt and create a very pleasant environment even in the roughest times, visitors can simply avoid us.  I am a true believer in that we need to market our competitive advantages, communicating the unmatched experiences of summer and fall.  We then can follow up with more tactical moves on how to fill our need periods in the winter.  However, the majority of our very limited marketing dollars should be spent on what makes us great, not what we need to overcome. 

So, clearly Paul has been on a mission for some time.  He notes various projects that he has under development, some of them in our market. It will be interesting to see what comes next from Wischermann Partners.  I will share more insight from Paul in a coming issue of the Meet Minneapolis Minute.



May 27, 2014

Gracious Competitors

With all the euphoria that still surrounds the recent news of Minneapolis being named Super Bowl LII's host city, it is easy to overlook some of the human interest stories that emanated from this once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

From our bid team's jubilant and unbridled reaction to Commissioner Goodell's affirmation of Minnesota's selection as the site of Super Bowl LII to inspecting the presentation room and checking technology in advance of the presentation to encountering a woman at MSP International Airport upon our return Tuesday evening who recognized some of the bid team from the ESPN story, each one of us blessed enough to be on site will cherish both individual and collective memories.

One special memory I have reflected upon often and one that I have shared with several people is how gracious my counterparts from Indianapolis and New Orleans have been since the decision was made.  The made-for-television event surrounding the announcement of the Super Bowl LII site was a media feeding frenzy to say the least.  Imagine a hotel's meeting room level where finalist cities Minneapolis, Indianapolis and New Orleans had adjacent "war rooms" and the scene outside the door of the room we occupied.  The NFL 's media operations center was just down the hall and the corridor was jam packed with reporters, cameras and lights from network and local media outlets. 


Featured in Photo: Leonard Hoops, Myself (Melvin Tennant) and Stephen Perry


My esteemed New Orleans counterpart, Stephen Perry, somehow navigated that crowded corridor to personally wish us congratulations and to offer his assistance in planning if we needed it.  In fact, Stephen had met with us back in February 2013 during Super Bowl LVIII that his city was in the midst of hosting to offer us advice and encouragement on our future bid.   

My good friend and counterpart from Indianapolis with whom I have a healthy professional rivalry (you may recall I noted that he once stated than Minneapolis is in his city's rear view member as a competitive city) has also offered kind words since the decision was rendered last week.  Leonard Hoops and his Indianapolis team win their fair share of business in head to head competition with us, however, he was sincere in his gesture.

Without a doubt, we can take great pleasure in winning such a major victory in head to head completion with cities like New Orleans and Indianapolis.  But one of the most memorable moments for me is to be able to hear from my colleagues in such a gracious and professional manner.  Hats off to those great cities and the leaders of their destination marketing organizations.  

But more importantly, hats off to Vikings ownership and staff, our co-chairs, to every single member of the steering committee and bid team as well as everyone who touched the bid in some way.  It's a team I am proud to be a a part of. However, this is a victory we can savor for only a short time as there is much work to do.  We must now make good on the promises we have made to the NFL and live up to our bid theme: Built for the Bold. 



May 20, 2014

"Put us in, Coach – we're ready to play"

This was the closing statement from U.S. Bank's Chairman and CEO and Minnesota Super Bowl Bid co-chair Richard Davis in the presentation today to NFL owners. He was flanked by former Carlson Chair and CEO Marilyn Carlson Nelson in making the case for the 2018 Minnesota Super Bowl. This formidable team of corporate titans successfully made Minnesota's case based on the theme: Built for the Bold!

The Minnesota bid team waited in its "war room" as the owners voted and deliberated on the Super Bowl LII decision. 

According an NFL official, this NFL owners' meeting has attracted so much more media than other owners' meetings in recent memory. We encountered one media member from a New Orleans local television crew who made the eight hour drive to Atlanta for the meetings. 

As the bid team made final preparations and the presentation co-chairs did a final run through, Richard Anderson boldly said, "I'm ready to win today." 

Marilyn Carlson Nelson and Richard Davis demonstrated why they have been the successful executives they are. They rolled up their sleeves to help craft a strategy to raise significant dollars and a winning presentation. Although Doug Baker was not able to personally attend the presentation due to an unavoidable commitment, he made a prominent and compelling appearance via video during the presentation. I am certain that no other city in contention for Super Bowl LII has the corporate champions that we have.  

We must also thank the Vikings owners in attendance, Mark and Zygi Wilf, for leveraging the great relationships they have nurtured with fellow owners over their 10 years as owners. Vikings executives, including Meet Minneapolis Board Member Lester Bagley, deftly pressed the flesh to secure support for the Super Bowl bid. For Lester, the stadium legislation odyssey has taken more than a dozen years.

I am thrilled to be sending this news to you from Atlanta, where it was announced just this afternoon that Minnesota was awarded Super Bowl LII in February 2018! Below, you’ll find the official news release – as valued partners, you should be among the first to know and share this terrific news!


Before you get to that, I want to personally thank everyone who has been involved in the bid process for the hard work, precision and intensity that lead to this historic announcement today. From the members of the Bid Committee, to the many individuals who contributed to the presentation, the bid response, the financial support and the many partners who pledged hotel rooms to not only meet the 19,000 requested by the NFL, but to exceed that total by well over 1,000 rooms, THANK YOU.

Now, the real work begins! In under four years, we’ll welcome the world to Minnesota and to our new stadium, which was, as our bid theme highlighted, “Built for the Bold.” The hospitality infrastructure, transportation, new investments in our city’s assets and most importantly, our people, won this bid by demonstrating our bold attitudes, willingness to get the job done and our ability to take on not just any world-class event, but one of the biggest events a destination can host.

Read on for the news release and check out the bid logo, images and some videos from the presentation that won Super Bowl LII at



Minnesota Selected To Host Super Bowl LII In February 2018 >>>




May 13, 2014

The New Frugal

The Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) recently conducted its annual CEO Summit. My esteemed colleagues/competitors from Pittsburgh, Denver, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Atlanta, Anaheim, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma City, Naples, and Phoenix were among the intimate group of attendees. With the exception of proprietary competitive data, destination marketing organizations have a tradition of sharing best practices with each other.

The most gripping and sobering remarks came from a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Deputy Director who was in the room with President Bush on September 11, 2001 as well as with President Obama on May 1, 2011 when the mission to locate Osama Bin Laden was completed. I will elaborate on that presentation in the future. However, this week I want to share remarks made by Peter Yesawich.

Yesawich is vice-chairman of MMGY Global and he was our keynote annual meeting speaker in 2012. MMGY'S mission is to help travel companies grow revenue by motivating their customers.

The firm conducts the  travelhorizons™ survey, a quarterly survey of Americans’ travel intentions viewed through the lens of emerging economic, social and political developments. The sample size is approximately 2,200 adults. MMGY has conducted this research since 2007 and Yesawich noted that the lowest poll results occurred in October 2008. That was when the Minneapolis market had just hosted the Republican National Convention and had entered the recession along with the rest of the country.

Even though most amateur and professional economic prognosticators have declared some degree of economic recovery, his most current research shows that 58% of American still feel as though the recession is not over even though it officially is.

One of the manifestations of this consumer nervousness is a phenomenon Yesawich calls the "new frugal." Let me give some examples.  

A Land Rover pulls up to a Costco to pick up a case of the occupants' favorite Cabernet that may still cost $90/bottle at a discounted pice. According to Yesawich Costco is the nation's largest wine retailer. This affluent buyer hasn't curtailed the consumption of wine, but has become more price sensitive in purchasing it.

A prospective traveler uses a metasearch travel engine like Kayak that aggregates the results of individual search engines results to compare prices on the same travel experience over the same periods. Among travel search engines, Kayak was the only one to show increased website visitation year over year in 2013. Expedia, Priceline, Hotwire, and Orbitz were among those sites that saw a decline in visits over that same period. Consumers appear to be taking the availability of advanced search options to another level. An acknowledgement of the power of metasearch is Priceline's 2012 purchase of Kayak. Previously, Priceline acquired as well as other independent travel booking sites. Clearly Priceline was early in its embrace of the new frugal consumer mentality. Research done on 2013 by American Express showed that the affluent plan to increase spending for vacations by 10 percent, on luxury lodging by 17 percent, and on weekend getaways by 14 percent, over last year. That's according to The Luxury Travel Advisor in its May 31, 2013 issue.  

In both examples, the consumer hasn't curtailed the consumption of the product. Instead, the new frugal phenomenon causes even the affluent consumer to more frequently ask why should I pay more for what I want than I have to? Yesawich also pointed to our hometown Target as the poster child of the new frugal.  

If Yesawich is correct in his assessment of the new frugal as the norm for consumer behavior, what does this mean to our local travel/hospitality industry moving forward?  

As marketers, we should assume that consumers are willing to buy travel products and services but are looking around more than before. In response, this suggests that we focus less on price and more on value. That little something extra, that special service touch or that experience that is only available to "special people" are ways to take advantage of the new frugal phenomenon. Consumers are willing to spend for high end items but are looking for value. Behind the scenes opportunities like Meet Minneapolis' Exclusive Experiences are logical companions to the deals that we also promote on Consumers have also shown that if they can save in one area, they will spend more in another.

We should also take a look at our various product and service distribution channels. How is your company being compared to competitors? Can you live up to the price guarantees you have made? 

We would love to hear your take on the new frugal phenomenon.  



May 6, 2014

Meet Minneapolis Sales Transformation Launches

Several weeks ago, I shared that Meet Minneapolis is embarking upon an aggressive sales transformation process in order to be able to enhance our competitive position in destination marketplace.  I am excited to announce those enhancements that will help us further our vision to become the Destination of Choice.


I’m pleased to announce that we have hired Brent Foerster to serve as senior vice president, Destination Sales. Brent will have a singular focus on sales and will be joining our high performing executive team in collaborating to drive more convention business to Minneapolis. Brent is a proven, hands-on sales leader who is excited to return to his hometown. He possesses extensive hotel experience including with the Hilton Minneapolis. Most recently, Brent served as vice president of sales, marketing and communications for Visit Milwaukee.

Brent said, “It is exciting coming back after seven years away and having the opportunity to lead the sales effort for the city I love and will always consider my home. After 25 plus years in the hospitality industry, I am honored to have been picked for this opportunity and will apply my broad industry experience making an already strong sales effort stronger.”

New Director of Sales Position Created

A new director of sales position will also be created to support the new SVP, Destination Sales.  Duties will include day-to-day departmental management. The intention is to fill this position with an internal candidate.  This is a credit to the extremely talented team we have in place and the need to support the transition of our new SVP.

Sports Minneapolis Launched

The other big change is that we also are forming a new organization, Sports Minneapolis. This will be a Meet Minneapolis affiliate headed by Scott Romane, who as most of you know, is a 19-year employee with the organization. As Sports Minneapolis executive director, Scott will report to me directly and will be fully transitioned to his new role by July 1. He will be joined by Matt Meunier, current national sales executive, who will serve as senior national account executive, sports, for Sports Minneapolis.

The mission of Sport Minneapolis is to market and sell Minneapolis as a site for amateur and professional sporting events, sports-related conventions and related activities for the economic benefit of our community. Having been central to bid preparation for the MLB All-Star Game, NFL Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four, it is apparent that Meet Minneapolis resources are essential to those efforts and that more focus on sports sales and marketing is essential to compete effectively.

Rob recently put it best: “Meet Minneapolis’ extensive competency in sports events, most notably seen in the current Super Bowl bid, is being deployed as Sports Minneapolis to leverage our communities’ incredible investment in world class facilities".

This is an exciting time to be a part of our organization. The transformation of our Destination Sales team and the formation of Sports Minneapolis will be catalysts for the changes that will help us succeed in our mission to market, sell and maximize the visitor experience of Minneapolis for the economic benefit of our community as we continue to reach for our vision of becoming the Destination of Choice.

Please join me in welcoming our new SVP, Destination Sales, Brent Foerster, and congratulating our other team members on their changed positions. We are excited about how these moves will help us support our partners even more in attracting meetings, conventions and events to Minneapolis.



April 28, 2014

Partners in Progress

The full Meet Minneapolis Board of Directors meets five times annually. Our board is made up of more than 40 C-level executives who dedicate their time and other resources to the fulfilling our vision of becoming the Destination of Choice.

At the most recent Meet Minneapolis board meeting we reported on our current sales and marketing initiatives and I was reminded of the  number of our public and private sector partners that we rely on. I looked around and was particularly pleased at who was represented in the room. Meet Minneapolis doesn’t deliberate on or set public policy. We don’t have hotel rooms or restaurant seats to sell. We are not the decision makers on which performances appear at our theaters or which exhibits are placed in our museums. We are not responsible for keeping downtown clean, green and safe. We are not experts at retail strategy who decide what merchandise to offer shoppers. Yet, we are responsible for selling and promoting the Minneapolis visitor experience that these components represent. And it is our partners who make it happen.

For example, the Minneapolis Downtown Council and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce (MRCC) are leading the effort on the bonding bill that will transform Nicollet Mall into an even greater attraction. It will be the staging area for such high profile events as Super Bowl Boulevard if we are awarded the 2018 event.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board was able to modify its rules to accommodate a major event associated with this summer’s MLB All-Star Game.

We have board members representing the Best Western Normandy Inn, Carlson, Wischermann Partners, Hilton Minneapolis Hotel, Hyatt Regency, the Minneapolis Marriott City Center and others who helped us to secure the hotel rooms we need for our Super Bowl bid. And the Metropolitan Airports Commission showed why airports is plural in its name as it helped to plan for the barrage of private aircraft requiring alternative airport facilities that a Super Bowl will attract.

The University of Minnesota has been a lead partner in pursuing the Men’s Final Four and numerous other NCAA events. This is particularly important since so many of the NCAA events occur during our need periods. The centerpiece relationship in our efforts to attract both the Final Four and Super Bowl is the one we have with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

There are many other such integral relationships that Meet Minneapolis enjoys but the one we rely on most frequently is the one we have with the City of Minneapolis. While we provide the expert destination marketing and sales services for the City and focus much of what we do on the Marriott Minneapolis Convention Center, the City is in the lead on ordinances, advocacy and counsel on any number of policy issues that impact our ability to do our jobs. 

All of the relationships I have noted above are ones that are at our board of directors’ level. My friend and colleague, Todd Klingel, my MRCC counterpart, commented that he appreciates the partner organization reports we include in our board meetings. It makes perfect sense to have a forum for the organizational partners we work with regularly to keep us informed of the work they are doing that benefits our industry. But keep in mind that we have more than 500 private sector businesses that partner with us to fulfill our mission and deliver on the visitor experience. 

So, I would like to say thank you to all of the businesses and organizations that help us to keep the promises we make to our visitors. 



April 22, 2014

Ask The Expert

Continuing with our last issue’s look at the state of our industry, I have called upon an industry expert to give us his take. John Kaatz of Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL) is the industry expert we are speaking to this week.

Founded in 1988, CSL is a leading advisory and planning firm specializing in providing consulting services to the convention, sport, entertainment and visitor industries. Their services include new/expanded event facility feasibility studies, organizational reviews/performance enhancement studies, destination master planning, industry benchmarking, negotiation assistance and related services. They have done several projects for Meet Minneapolis and the City of Minneapolis in the past. Check out their site for more information:

Here’s how John responded to some questions I posed to him based on his vast experience in dealing with a variety of destinations, governmental units and companies:


MT: Based on what you’ve seen so far in 2014, do you have an optimistic outlook for the balance of this year?

JK: "Sales and marketing executives in destinations we are working with throughout the country are seeing increases in future year bookings. We also know that the broader convention and meetings industry is closely tied to the health of the national economy. As the pace of modest but steady economic growth continues, I fully expect that demand from the convention and meetings sector will strengthen. In fact, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research recently released projections for convention industry growth at 2.0 percent for 2014, and just under 3.0 percent for both 2015 and 2016. This represents the strongest pattern of growth in many years."


MT: Do you see evidence of the seller’s market in the hotel industry that usually follows occupancy and rate growth?

JK: "Yes, and that includes the Minneapolis market which has reached relatively high levels of hotel occupancy over the past several years. We see event planners trying to secure contracts for facilities and hotels closer in than in the past. In other words, it’s becoming increasingly important for the event planner to finalize arrangements for that 2017 meeting much sooner than in past years. This is a clear indication of demand growth both from the convention industry, but also within other key hotel room night demand sources such as corporate and leisure transient sectors."


MT: What one trend would you identify as one that our industry should watch closely?

JK: "There are several we are following. On the product side, we see communities throughout the country looking to invest (with public/private partnerships) in creating a more walkable, dense downtown environment that includes convention, hotel, restaurant, retail and entertainment amenities. Event planners are increasingly focusing on the experience of the attendee, in addition to traditional center/hotel capacity, air lift and other such issues. Minneapolis has a viable base of assets surrounding the MCC, however continued investment in these assets, with carefully planned linkages, green space and other amenities, will be needed.

We’re also focusing on longer term issues related to changing demographics nationally. As those in the millennial generation enter and move up in the business community, the ways in which meetings are held may evolve. It is increasingly common to discuss participant driven learning sessions where the attendees, via various forms of social media, help define the discussion topics, even during the course of the event. The notion of a highly-planned and rigid event agenda may fade over time. Also, given the increasing prevalence of on-line learning within the educational system nationally, we are continuing to monitor any spill-over effects into the convention and meetings industry. 

These longer term trends will impact how hotel and center meeting space is constructed and operated. One hotel GM I met with recently had invested in large table and chair configurations in unused lobby space, and within several weeks this area became an informal yet very highly used space for business related discussions. Similarly, I have seen convention attendees move chairs from meeting/ballroom areas into lobby space to allow for a last-minute informal business gathering. Over time, these informal gathering concepts will manifest themselves in terms of changes to meeting and ballroom space development, configuration and furniture."

We will speak to other industry experts on relevant industry topics in upcoming issues of the Meet Minneapolis Minute.  



April 15, 2014

A look back at our 1st quarter

As much as I dislike the “cautious optimism” phrase, that’s seems to be where we are as a local hospitality/travel industry.  This phrase, however, is supported by both anecdotal and empirical data that we have collected.  Of the four key performance indicators (KPI) that Meet Minneapolis uses to gauge its success, we are on target or very close to the target  on all four of them though the first quarter.  To recap, those KPIs are:

  • Future group room nights
  • Future leisure room nights
  • Private sector partnership revenue generated
  • Minneapolis Convention Center Revenue

Destination marketing organizations like Meet Minneapolis and the hotel industry employ a tool called the Smith Travel Report (STR) to track occupancy, average daily rate and revenue per available room.  These indicators show the success of the hotel industry as well as a pulse on the overall travel/hospitality industry. STR tracks these measures on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis.

STR reported positive results for U.S. Hotel Industry for Week Ending April 5. In year-over-year measurements, the industry's occupancy increased 2.4 percent to 65.2 percent. Average daily rate rose 4.2 percent to finish the week at $112.60. Revenue per available room for the week was up 6.7 percent to finish at $73.46.

Minneapolis’ comparable numbers for that same week showed 59.9% in occupancy, a 5.4% decrease; a 6.6% increase in average daily rate to $128.83; and a 0.9% increase in revenue per available room to end at $75.56.

It is worth noting that 534 rooms or 7.5% of the total rooms inventory that are included in this year’s room count were not in service this time last year. The Millennium’s 321 rooms and the Hyatt Place’s 213 are now in our inventory and have made our citywide package even more viable.

We want to also remind you of the monster summer we anticipate with the likes of Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress, USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior Nationals and the MLB All-Star Game filling hotels, restaurants, retail establishments and attractions.

Dallas just hosted the NCAA’s Final Four and STR reports that among the top 25 markets, Dallas led the nation in occupancy growth with a 21.2% increase the week of the tournament. We have a lot to look forward to.

We have seen what STR thinks but now we want to see what you think. Please take a moment to complete the following brief hospitality business climate survey. As our industry’s eyes, ears and brains, we want to hear from you and share the collective results in future issue of the Meet Minneapolis Minute. Thank you for taking a “minute” to complete the survey.

Please scroll down to complete full survey.




April 8, 2014

Selling the vision of a very concise footprint

Meet Minneapolis team members frequently travel to other cities to pursue meetings, convention and leisure business.  While on business travel we make an effort to gather market intelligence on the particular city we are visiting to help us compete better in the marketplace. Recently I was as part of a team headed to Dallas to meet with various prospective customers, including the NCAA. Although it is city I know well, it was interesting to see how Dallas and its environs accommodated the NCAA,crown jewel event, the Men, Division I Basketball Championship... aka the Final Four. 

The competition venue, the AT&T Stadium, is considered by many as the gold standard for such facilities with its footprint of nearly 3 million square feet and a nearly $2 billion price tag.  The stadium has 80,000 permanent seats but has hosted events with more than 105,000 in attendance. I was told by one official that the Statue of Liberty could stand up in the stadium with only her crown visible through the retractable roof. The new Vikings stadium by means of comparison has 65,000 seats and is 1.8 million square feet and price tag of a mere $1 billion. 

But as wonderful as that facility is and as pleasant as the City of Arlington, Texas is (the municipality where the stadium is located), it is still 19 miles from downtown Dallas where many other Final Four signature events, such as Bracket Town and the March Madness Music Festival, took place. I also noticed that the ESPN live broadcast was actually in Ft. Worth.  32 miles separate the two downtowns of Ft. Worth and Dallas.  In fairness though, the suburban location of AT&T Stadium provides the availability of nearby space that can be used for logistical options that are not available in urban stadium environments like ours.  However, there was an extensive shuttle bus system in place to move attendees to various venues.

The bottom line is that the Dallas-Ft. Worth area did a great job in hosting the Final Four, although the NCAA had to make certain alterations to its stated RFP to accommodate all of its events there. 

But even with the size and resource disparity between the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and the Minneapolis area, we are still quite capable of successfully hosting the Final Four.  We tend to take for granted what it means to have a downtown that encompasses three professional sports venues, numerous performing arts venues, 7,000+ hotel rooms, soon-to-be two light rail lines and an existing commuter train line, restaurant and nightlife options to suit all tastes, and more. Of course, the driving influences of the existence these amenities and assets are downtown, nearly 40,000 residents and 160,000 workers.  I am always quick to point out that the vibrancy we all enjoy in downtown Minneapolis has been through organic growth and not of the contrived variety that many cities employ.  As a transplant who has heard the concerns natives regarding dwindling downtown retail, I can also say with certainty that most cities larger than Minneapolis covet the level of downtown retail we have. And if we have to partner with neighboring communities like Bloomington and St. Paul to incorporate additional amenities, we can do so in a convenient and cost-effective manner.

Clearly the scale of our facility and amenity size is less than some comparable ones in Dallas. However, we have a critical mass of visitor amenities that individual visitors and event planners desire.  I was impacted by the simplicity of the counsel we received from the Chief Operating Officer of the College Football Playoff. You may recall that we are in the race to secure the "Super Bowl" of college football. He implored us to focus on "selling the vision of a very concise footprint." Minneapolis is blessed with such a footprint.   

Coming Next Week:

Hospitality Business Climate Survey (HBCS).  We will ask the readers of the Meet Minneapolis Minute to periodically respond to strategic questions that will inform Meet Minneapolis and our local travel/hospitality industry on issues and trends that impact our success.  Do we stay the course of make any necessary corrections?



April 1, 2014

You Can’t out-Vegas Vegas

This is a phrase that was attributed to me by Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) CEO Paul Van Deventer last year during his organization’s 2013 World Education Congress (WEC) which was held in Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Hotel.  Several members of the Meet Minneapolis team along with other members of the Minnesota MPI chapter were there helping to generate excitement for the 2014 WEC we are hosting this August.

Las Vegas has more than 120,000 total hotel rooms with nearly half of those along the Las Vegas Strip. The Mandalay Bay alone comprises 4,752 rooms in its complex. And the Mandalay Bay is one of three exhibit spaces in Las Vegas of one million square feet or more.  Add to that world-class pyrotechnics, stadium-sized multimedia LED lighting advertising shows and special events, a 500-foot-high fountain display accompanied by classical music, a skyline that has taken the best of cities from around the globe that are staples of the Las Vegas destination experience, and you have the formula Las Vegas uses to wow and welcome 40 million annual visitors. So, in very practical terms, it would be next to impossible to out-Vegas Vegas, at least on infrastructure. Although I hear Dubai gives Las Vegas a run for its money. 

I had the opportunity to reprise the ‘You Can’t out-Vegas Vegas’ comment with MPI’s current chair, Michael Dominguez, during a taped interview the two of us did recently leading up to the WEC here this summer. And if anyone would know anything about trying to replicate or compete with Las Vegas, it’s Michael.  He is the Senior Vice President of Sales for MGM Resorts International, which has controlling or partial interest in 23 casino hotel projects mostly located in Las Vegas (but the company has other properties located in Mississippi, Michigan and China).  On the Las Vegas Strip, MGM Resorts International owns thousands of hotel rooms in hotels such as the Mandalay Bay, Mirage, New York New York, Bellagio and others.  Michael is the consummate sales advocate for his hotels and city.  However, wearing his MPI International Chair hat, he strongly advocates that MPI’s members and conference attendees desire diverse meeting experiences that play to each destination’s strengths and shortcomings. One example he gave is that it is not usually feasible to do an outdoor event in August in Las Vegas.  The average high temperature for August in Las Vegas is 103⁰ and ours is 81⁰.  In fact, we are planning several outdoor events during this year’s WEC.

While there are examples of cities that have tried to replicate the strengths of other cities and failed miserably by trying to own an identity that it cannot support, Minneapolis and Las Vegas are two cities that are true to their respective brands.

We all know the iconic Las Vegas tagline : “What happens here stays here.”

Since that tag burst onto the scene in 2003, it just seemed to fit.  There were years of brand science behind the launch of the campaign. The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority’s ad agency developed the following case statement that led to the famous tagline:

“The emotional bond between Las Vegas and its customers was freedom. Freedom on two levels.  Freedom to do things, see things, eat things, wear things, feel things. In short, the freedom to be someone we couldn't be at home. And freedom from whatever we wanted to leave behind in our daily lives. Just thinking about Vegas made the bad stuff go away. At that point the strategy became clear. Speak to that need. Make an indelible connection between Las Vegas and the freedom we all crave.”

The Minneapolis: City by Nature brand celebrated the second anniversary of its launch last October. The brand’s positioning statement is:

“Minneapolis is the perfect blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication. No other American city has a chain of lakes, the mighty Mississippi, and 200 miles of walking, biking, and cross-country ski trails within the city limits-literally steps from the most vibrant arts and music scene outside NYC, the best shopping in the region, and museums among the finest in the nation. From ski hills to shopping malls. Muskie to Monet.  Biking to Beef Bourguignon.   Minneapolis is the American city where natural and urban drama share a single stage.”

There was also considerable brand science behind our brand as well even though the LVCVA budget is 20 times larger than that of Meet Minneapolis. And once City by Nature was launched, the recognition of its congruence of with how most people view us as a destination has been impressive. 

You have heard us refer to 2014 as THE year. The MLB All-Star Game, USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior Nationals, National Conference of State Legislatures and the Shriners are just some of the groups that are anchoring this stellar year.  We are working to be the best we can be as a destination. Our downtown hotels have invested significantly more than $100 million in upgrades.  The Minneapolis Convention Center is making improvements like constructing a new, more-visible interactive visitor information center and new escalators.  Our Downtown Improvement District Ambassadors continue to excel at keeping our CBD clean, green and safe.   Our Nice Ride bikes will be out in full force and, of course, our Thursday Downtown Farmer’s Market provides the ingredients for a jumpstart to the weekend. 

So, in my view, we shouldn’t try to out-Vegas Vegas. Perhaps Las Vegas needs to try to out-Minneapolis Minneapolis.  (Good luck with that, Vegas!) 



March 25, 2014

So why should we care about diversity and inclusion?

“Diversity is all about the internal (age, race, gender, etc.) and external (education, political affiliations, etc.) dimensions of individuals that make them unique,” says Hattie Hill,  CEO of Hattie Hill Enterprises, Inc. “Inclusion occurs when you leverage those similarities and differences to create a positive, engaged workforce for accelerated growth.”  

Hattie Hill is a renowned diversity expert with whom I have worked over the years and who currently serves as the chair of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau. Check out this link for Hattie’s full bio.

It is easy for diversity and inclusion discussions to become misguided without the proper information or intent. During my career, I have seen several industry organizations such as the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) take on the diversity and inclusion issue for our industry.  Each organization has seen some success but sustaining these efforts has been problematic. 

The topic of diversity and inclusion isn’t always on our respective organizational agendas since we may not believe they impact us directly.  As a means of background, allow me to share a few demographic data points for your consideration.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • The U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043;
  • The proportion of the population younger than 18 is expected to change little over the 2012-2060 period, decreasing from 23.5 percent to 21.2 percent;
  • In 2056, for the first time, the older population, age 65 and over, is projected to outnumber the young, age under 18;
  • The working-age population (18 to 64) is expected to increase by 42 million between 2012 and 2060, from 197 million to 239 million, while its share of the total population declines from 62.7 percent to 56.9 percent.

On a regional basis, the Metropolitan Council, which has a mission to foster efficient and economic growth for our seven county region, reports that by 2040: 

  • There will be a 100% growth in seniors;
  • There will be an overall increase of 800,000 new residents;
  • 43% of the region’s population will be people of color;
  • 62% of the region’s residents won't have children in the household.

On a local level, students in Minneapolis Public Schools speak almost 100 languages at home. Minneapolis has the largest Somali population outside of Mogadishu and the citizens of Minneapolis elected seven new city council members and as a result have ushered in a change that represents a diversity of age, race and national origin that has never been seen since the city’s incorporation in 1867.  

It’s a lot to digest, but we must prepare ourselves for what diversity and inclusion means for our businesses. Demographic trends such as those from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Met Council help to inform us about our current and future customers. The first part of this preparation is education about customers and colleagues that come different ethnic groups, faith traditions, national origins, age groups, sexual orientation, disabilities (particularly those that are not apparent), or socioeconomic levels. We should educate ourselves on how decisions we make are influenced by one or more of those unique aspects of our backgrounds. 

So what are some steps we can take to prepare ourselves for the changes occurring around us?

  • Are we aware of the potential blind spots we have in dealing with diverse colleagues and customers?
  • Do we have a business plan in place that provides intentional strategies as to how to interact with diverse populations?
  • Do our business plans deal with the current state of affairs or do our plans look at who our customers will be in 10, 20 or 30 years?
  • Have we looked at the entire pipeline of resources that we need to effectively address the needs of customers in areas such as the vendors we use or our own staff makeup?
  • Do we try to find common ground with customers and colleagues that reflects our understanding of their set of unique experiences and personal attributes?

These are just some of the questions we should ask ourselves as we determine if our businesses are ready to effectively and successfully interact with our changing customer groups. The Metropolitan Council is already taking that step, planning for transit options that will need to accommodate an aging population like outfitting buses with lower less steep steps.

My friend and colleague Hattie Hill says that “the state of business has shifted from a time when diversity was something you think you should do, to something that is now critical for success in today’s multicultural climate. The business case is simple – in order to compete in the rapidly changing business environment, growing organizations must make it a priority to respond to the current needs of their workforce, customers and stakeholders.”

The world is changing right before our eyes.  Those who are interested in learning about and embracing the changes in the world will survive and prosper.  Those who ignore those changes and remain stagnant will be left behind.  




March 17, 2014

Are you ready for some football?

Last week, the National Football League, with stealth-like fashion and military precision, deployed its events team to review our facilities and destination as they work to prepare the 32 NFL franchise owners to make a decision on the site of Super Bowl LII in 2018.  NFL Senior Vice President of Events Frank Supovitz led the charge.

Their battle plan was contained in the 153 page RFP that the NFL distributed to cities last year.  Minneapolis emerged as one of three finalists along with New Orleans and Indianapolis.  The competition could not be more staunch as New Orleans is the most visited city for Super Bowls and Indy recently set the standard for a northern tier Super Bowl.

It is apparent that the Super Bowl is Frank’s baby.  He spoke proudly of the history and evolution of the event and labeled the Super Bowl as a unique cultural experience.  For the casual fan, that may seem to be an overstatement. But consider the fact that this game is where the most anticipated television commercials are aired -- at a reported cost of $4 million per 30 second spot this year.  And even for the casual fan, Super Bowl house parties are one of the year’s first can’t-miss gatherings.  And the 111+ million viewers of the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl ranks it as the most-watched television program in history.  Maybe Frank is right. 

Frank has had experience in staging major events in our metro area in the past, including the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1990 and National Hockey League All Star Game 2004.   He was clearly impressed with what he saw but he cautioned us to be aware that the Super Bowl is very different from when we hosted it here in 1992.   

Meet Minneapolis is one of many organizations at the center of supporting the Vikings in bid preparations.  Leading the overall effort are our Minnesota Super Bowl LII Champions:

  • Richard Davis, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of U.S. Bank
  • Doug Baker,  Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Ecolab
  • Marilyn Carlson Nelson Marilyn Carlson Nelson is former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Carlson

These three titans of industry have challenged and pushed us to put forth the best possible response to the NFL.  Their approach to the bid has given us some insight into why they have been so successful in their own businesses. 

Led by Lester Bagley, Minnesota Vikings Vice President of Public Affairs & Stadium Development and Meet Minneapolis Board member, the Super Bowl Steering Committee is comprised of: 

  • Michele Kelm Helgen, Chair Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority
  • Katie Clark Sieben, Commissioner Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
  • Rob Moor, CEO Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx and Meet Minneapolis Chair
  • Melvin Tennant, CEO Meet Minneapolis
  • Michael Langley, CEO Greater MSP 

Richard Davis paraphrased the Gloria Swanson quote from the 1950 movie, Sunset Boulevard in his remarks to Frank Supovitz: “Mr. De Mille, we’re ready for our close-up!”  The journey of more than a decade of securing a new multi-purpose stadium for our community is now beginning to bear fruit.  We will know if we have been selected later this year!  And yes, we are ready for some football. 

If you want continual updates on this entire process, check out for the latest news on the Minnesota Super Bowl bid.