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States are aiming their tourism message to moms with kids in the home, said Shawna Lode, manager of the Iowa Tourism Office. “Women use social media to plan their travel, so that’s the bulk of our campaign.”
Other tourism promotional methods are still part of the toolbox. Several years ago states found great success wrapping buses or bus stops with scenes of splendor. Minnesota has upped its game by wrapping part of a building in Denver.
Extending advertising reach
Explore Minnesota is expanding advertising to an additional six states this year: Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, in addition to eight existing markets. Many Midwestern states are now expanding internationally to gain an edge.
Minnesota tripled its international budget this year with promotions extending beyond Canada and Europe into Mexico and China. “We don’t run any consumer ads yet, but we’re spending up to $500,000 trying to get travel writers here.” Edman said.
Wisconsin is focusing on Brazil and China. “By law, everyone in Brazil gets 30 days of vacation per year.” Klett said. “Chinese visitors spend twice as much as European visitors.”
Tourism offices say that dollars spent are a worthy investment. Minnesota gets $8 in tax revenue for every dollar that the state kicks in, based on past studies. But with perennially tight budgets, some states still tighten the purse strings.
Colorado dropped its tourism office in 1993, saving $12 million but losing $1.4 billion in tourism annually, according to Longwoods Travel USA tracking program. In summer resort revenue, Colorado went from first to 17th in 1994. The state reinstated the budget in 2000.
In 2011 the state of Washington also shut down its tourism offices but has not reopened them. “Our lesson to Washington is that since we went dark in 1993, we still haven’t gotten back to the national market we had,” said Al White, head of the Colorado Tourism Office.
Connecticut eliminated its budget in 2010 and saw travel-related tax revenue cut in half, a loss of $390 million in revenue. It restored the funds in 2011.
“States have to be constantly reinforcing the message,” said Cathy Keefe, spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Association. “If you don’t, people will forget about you.”
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633