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Messages from the President

New Study Helps Pinpoint Marketing Efforts - November

By: Anna Tanski | November 18, 2016


Research plays a key role in our data driven society and can serve as a valuable tool when it comes to developing marketing strategies and budget allocations.

Two years ago Visit Duluth paid for an abbreviated profile then committed to a comprehensive study for the first time in nearly a decade, to be conducted by Longwoods International, one of the leading tourism research firms in the country. We were fortunate to piggyback on statewide research commissioned by Explore Minnesota, the state tourism office, and include the Duluth market as an individual sector.

The 15 month study provided in-depth visitor demographic information at a cost of $20,000. A significant price tag but far below the industry recommendation of spending 10 percent of the total budget on research every year (Destination Marketing Association International best practice.) Keeping tabs on trends is essential when working to maximize every dollar spent.

In addition to providing insight into traveler behaviors, the study also measures overall destination performance. Last year Duluth welcomed 6.7 million visitors, of which 2.3 million were overnight stays and 4.4 million day trips. Economic impact more than $950 million.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of a visitor's budget is spent on lodging and food and beverage. However, retail came an impressive third place ranking. As a result we’re expanding plans for a shopping promotion in Thunder Bay, and across the region. Even Twin Cities shoppers are enticed by Duluth’s local retail scene.

As expected, July-September is the peak season for trips planned but October-December comes in only one percent behind, 30 percent vs 29 percent followed by April-June at 22 percent and January-March 15 percent. One of Visit Duluth’s key objectives is to continue to bolster the shoulder seasons and decrease seasonal margins.

Having updated statistics and detailed visitor profile information is essential when making decisions on where to place advertising, what content to feature and how to best target these messages. The research outlined what influenced an individual’s travel planning and how Duluth compared to the national trends in each category. We performed above the national average in the use of destination website, advice from friends/family, social media, online travel agencies and lodging sharing websites.

Duluth came in at or slightly below the national average in TV, radio, print and travel/consumer shows. Useful information as we finalize the 2017 marketing plan and outline media placement for the coming year.

Overall, research helps identify parameters that guide marketing initiatives. It enables us to be more proactive and pinpoint the most effective strategies.