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Messages from the President

Finding Gratitude In Disappointment - January

By: Anna Tanski | January 1, 2016

When your mission is to passionately market Duluth as a premier getaway destination, one call from a disgruntled visitor can potentially burst your bubble.

Take Rex from Texas, for example. In March he contacted Visit Duluth requesting a visitor guide to begin planning his break from the sweltering summer heat in the deep south. It turns out he spent the previous July 4th holiday in the Twin Cities and repeatedly heard Duluth was the ideal destination for a refreshing escape.

Acting on those recommendations, Rex made camping reservations in Duluth the first week in July. He spoke with Lori and Beth from Visit Duluth, the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable travel information consultants in this industry. We were thrilled he utilized Visit Duluth’s services to maximize his stay.

I first encountered Rex two days after he arrived in Duluth, when he called the office demanding to speak with the person in charge. I listened intently as he blasted Visit Duluth for false advertising because, as he put it, "our city is a joke." In his view, our brochure made the Duluth sound like Disneyland when the reality was there’s nothing to do here. In the spring when he called and spoke with Lori and Beth, they had assured him an abundance of activities would fill his week.

Based on the litany of complaints Rex shared regarding Duluth’s many attractions, he’d clearly made the rounds through most of our city’s unique signature experiences in less than 48 hours, and was not impressed. According to Rex the only item Visit Duluth hadn’t misrepresented was our weather which was perfect.

WOW! What a scorching, unflattering evaluation of our efforts. After pausing a moment I asked if there was anything I could do to help ease his disappointment. He didn’t offer any suggestions so I dug a bit deeper asking specifically what his biggest issue was. Without hesitation he pointed to the lack of evening activities (in his opinion,) explaining he was camping alone and wasn’t interested in the bar scene. I became keenly aware quiet evenings around a campfire were lonely for Rex.

After learning more about his interests, I offered to purchase a Vista Fleet dinner cruise for the next night, and was relieved when he accepted. To manage his expectations I noted it would be similar to the cruise he’d already taken, but the wonderful meal and being on Lake Superior at sunset would make for a nice evening. I also suggested visiting Glensheen since he hadn’t yet toured the estate.

When calling with the dinner cruise confirmation I explained we were typing up a list of evening activities, free outdoor concerts, including Fourth Fest, and scenic points of interest to take in during the remainder of his trip.

That afternoon I was out of the office when Rex stopped by to pick up the list. He introduced himself to Lori and Beth, apologized for coming across harshly at first and thanked them for such detailed efforts. He shared how much he’d enjoyed Glensheen and mentioned his wife would have loved it.

Out of the blue, Rex stopped by a few days later to deliver a beautiful chocolate cake with the message "Thank You" written in frosting. This thoughtful gesture touched Visit Duluth’s staff deeply, reinforcing the genuine spirit of service carried forward with each visitor interaction.


Anna Tanski, President/CEO