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Messages from the President

Learning From The Wisdom of Walt - February

By: Anna Tanski, President/CEO | February 10, 2016

Walt Disney World reigns supreme as one of the most iconic family attractions in our country. In 1999, my daughter Allison was just shy of her fifth birthday when we took our first family vacation to Orlando. Armed with her Disney Princess autograph book she skipped through the Magic Kingdom delighted with each scribbled character signature collected. It was the classic family vacation we anticipated based on Disney’s masterful advertising.

However, Walt Disney’s keen vision laid out phases of a master plan which included EPCOT and MGM Studios. He knew expanded experiences were essential to entice visitors to return. During our trip, Animal Kingdom was being constructed and only partially open, but we marveled at the exotic animals roaming the landscape and interactive special effects incorporated into screenings from the newest children’s movies.

Virtual reality was a new fangled technology featured in Disney Quest where specialized goggles made you feel you were actually in a light saber battle with your opponent. This was long before texting, phones equipped with cameras or social media existed. Our memories were captured on multiple rolls of film we couldn’t wait to develop upon returning home.

A member of the Millennial generation, 18-34 year olds, Allison is on the younger end of the spectrum of kids who grew up immersed in the early stages of experiential travel. Today, this demographic comprises the largest population segment, and has become the powerhouse market sought after by cities such as Duluth where opportunities for unique experiences are abundant. I recently attended the Explore MN tourism conference where Peter Yesawich from MMGY Global presented research highlighting the factors influencing the Millennial decision making process when choosing a vacation destination.

Seventy-four percent responded they are seeking a vacation that offers a signature experience or activity as part of the itinerary. More than 70 percent said they are unlikely to revisit a city unless there’s a new reason to do so. It’s predominantly a “been there, done that” mentality.

This attitude is not intended as a slight to previously visited locations, it’s based on this generation’s desire to consume a vast array of experiences without duplication.

Ongoing efforts to refresh our city benefit locals and visitors alike. Investment in new dining options are helping revitalize Lincoln Park as it continues building on the positive neighborhood energy being generated by businesses such as Duluth Grill, Bent Paddle Brewing and Frost River. Further to the west, the city’s vision for the St. Louis River Corridor is beginning to take shape. In the next few years that region promises to deliver an incredible trail system and access to the river which will draw a broad group of users.

New events continuously come on the scene, expanding the calendar of diverse entertainment options available year round. Duluth attractions strive to provide new exhibits and programming to keep visitors coming back time and again.

These combined efforts appeal to Millennials who grew up visiting Duluth but can justify returning as adults because we’re a city committed to investing in a vision of growth. Much like Walt Disney.


Anna Tanski, President/CEO