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Superior tourism panel explores marketing options

Promoting Superior could include marketing opportunities outside of the city that would draw visitors to stay in the community.

Travel Superior, Big Manitou Falls.jpg
Big Manitou Falls in Pattison State Park may not be in Superior but could be a draw for visitors, officials say.
File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The city's tourism development commission is looking to expand the area it markets to tourists as it begins to dive into its strategy to draw visitors to Superior.

Superior’s marketing efforts could include promoting Douglas County.

After meeting with Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert on Monday, July 11, Commissioner Pattie Soliday said she and commission chairperson Lindsey Graskey assured Liebaert that they would seek approval from the commission to include Douglas County in their marketing efforts.

Historically, the city and county partnered to promote tourism in the area, most recently by funding Travel Superior. When the city made the decision not to renew its contract with Travel Superior at the end of the 2021 and instead work with the tourism development commission, that decision left officials wondering what their best option would be to promote tourism in the county.

The county has typically contributed a small amount, comparatively, to marketing efforts handled by Travel Superior.

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At the commission's meeting on Monday, Soliday said the tourism development commission would seek that funding in September to add to its efforts.

Mayor Jim Paine said the rule established by statute is that hotel/motel taxes used for marketing the area must be reasonably likely to generate overnight stays in Superior. While promoting a stay on the St. Croix flowage isn’t likely to generate overnight stays in Superior, promoting the state parks and other activities outside of the city could draw visitors that would stay in Superior’s hotels, motels and short-term rental properties.

“I personally think marketing to a city — all cities have hotels, motels, restaurants, businesses — but what brings them here is activities,” Soliday said. “Other than our museums and a nice island situation, we’re limited to our natural resources. We have the forest. We don’t have the tallest waterfall in our state in our city.”

Soliday said they need to be cognizant that county assets like the waterfalls at Pattison and Amnicon Falls state parks are part of the draw for visitors coming to Superior.

While the commission hasn’t decided to promote Douglas County yet, commissioners did hear from Swim Creative and its market research partner, Kristin Anderson, about the preliminary research that’s been conducted.

The next step in the process is discovery, which includes input from local leaders, to help develop a campaign to reach the target audience.

“There’s a lot of information that’s going to come out of this,” said David Sadowski, partner and brand director of Swim Creative. “What’s really important is to boil it down to one sentence.”

He said that will allow Swim Creative to develop a campaign that provides a concise message to the target audience.

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Patrice Bradley, founder and CEO of Swim Creative, said she hopes to have that discovery complete by the week of Aug. 22, to present to the commission before going into concepts, anticipated in October. The goal is to have the campaign ready by the start of 2023.

Soliday said she is concerned about getting a website up to get something out there for visitors to explore.

“We’ve got to get something out there,” Soliday said.

Bradley said Swim Creative could work on the website as it builds the campaign.

“It would be nice to have something up by October,” said Commissioner Steven Pool, a manager of Heirloom Properties. He said that would enhance the bookings that usually happen when Bentleyville is open between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We’re starting from scratch,” Bradley said. “We want to do it the right way and make sure that we follow every process that leads to success. We’ve been doing this for years, and there’s a way that we do it and it works out well.”

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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