2 min read January 2022 — In a conversation with Invest:, President and CEO Bonnie Carlson of the Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau detailed the varying opportunities in the tourism industry and the Twin Cities. She discussed the chief obstacles and opportunities of the region, the unique aspects of Bloomington, and shared some strategies implemented to jump start recovery.
What are the chief opportunities in your market?
We learned the importance of our industry to the city. We found that it will be a journey towards recovery as we’ve experienced many resets when new COVID variants appeared on the scene. We’re working to counteract the sensationalism of the media so that we can move forward.
One of the opportunities in our market is within the leisure sector. The pent-up demand is clear as people want to travel. The connections and experiences that people received while traveling is huge. When examining the data in Minnesota and at a national level, the leisure segment of the market has carried the recovery of the tourism industry thus far. I believe people are listening, receiving vaccinations, and learning to live with the changed state of our world. Most have realized that they’re able to travel and travel safely. We believe there are more opportunities within that area. We do have wide open spaces in Minnesota which was made apparent in 2020 and 2021 as the desire to be outdoors has increased. We’re discussing how to lead people to other attractions as they become more comfortable with going out.
Bloomington is at the doorstep of the Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport. We’re blessed to have great air service with Delta Airlines and their international connections. We anticipate that we’ll see an increase in international travel. We’re optimistic about it.
What are the chief obstacles in surpassing past levels of activity?
I examine the travel industry in three areas: business travel, leisure travel, and travel for conferences and events. The leisure traveler has been carrying the industry immensely and we are seeing the business traveler return which is great. Minnesota is a great place for business travelers. We’re beginning to see conferences return as well, seeing an uptick in the late fall of 2021. We expect 2022 to be a breakout year as we’ve been busy with future bookings. Overall, we need the business traveler to return or for corporations to loosen restrictions on corporate travel. Moreover, in the Bloomington area, we offer many amateur sports tournament opportunities.
What programs and strategies has the CVB examined to jumpstart recovery?
We have seen our hotels provide affordable rates, remaining an affordable market that is quite attractive. They also offer packages and special offers at different times of the year. However, the challenge that accompanies that is supply and demand as we enter 2022. It’ll be a balancing act as people return to in-person conferences, meetings and events. I do have concerns regarding the economy and the impacts of inflation will impact all market segments. We’re hoping to gain control of that in the coming year. Our website features our hotels, providing a direct connection to our customers.
What are the key changes in hospitality and tourism in the region?
We have a marketing partnership with the Mall of America, so we look for opportunities to collaborate on special events. We also work with Minneapolis Saint Paul and our joint promotions with them have been successful. We always look to add new events and attractions. We’re currently bidding for the Expo 2027, and Bloomington is the perfect site and host for this as it holds the largest share of hotel rooms in the area.
What makes Bloomington unique?
Bloomington has many things to offer. It’s centrally located making it convenient to access major interstates, our international airport, and we’re in the middle of the Twin-Cities region. We believe our destination is safe, affordable, friendly, and welcoming to any visitor. We have a range of options for people to choose from, so it can be suited to the visitor’s tastes. We have many culture and arts attractions and events in the area along with different microbreweries, and restaurants. We also have a wildlife refuge and wide-open spaces, so we provide the best of both worlds. We have Fortune 500 companies in the area. There are many reasons to visit, including our four seasons.
What are your priorities and outlook for the CVB and the national economy in the near term?
We’re going to stay the course while capitalizing on the lessons learned within the past year. We’ll invest in data traveler insights, rebuild the organization, and work to enhance our digital platforms. We will grow and I’m positive that the national economy will recover quicker.
We’re optimistic about 2022 as we anticipate that our occupancy levels will increase by ten to fifteen percent, but this depends on everyone’s approach to the new normal. We must jump the hurdle as it pertains to the labor shortage, finding solutions on how to increase the workforce in the future. We’re looking to hire data analysts who are able to interpret the data. We’re also looking to expand positions within our marketing department.
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