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Conversations across Minnesota inspire Tourism Center priorities

Map marked with fifteen Minnesota cities visited during three road trips in 2021 as described in text.
Click/tap the image to enlarge.

Xinyi Qian is the University of Minnesota Tourism Center director.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic moved our work to a completely virtual setting, and by early summer 2021, I was aching to get back on the road to catch up with partners and build new relationships. Between August and October that year, I took trips to three regions in Greater Minnesota (see map). Cities I visited include:

  • (Trip 1) Red Wing, Lake City, Winona, Lanesboro, Preston, Rochester and Cannon Falls
  • (Trip 2) Duluth, Finland, Pine City and Franconia Sculpture Park
  • (Trip 3) Brainerd, Grand Rapids, Bemidji and Park Rapids

During these trips, I met with folks from:

  • Destination management organizations and chambers of commerce
  • Workforce, economic, and community development professionals
  • Small business and farm owners
  • Event organizers
  • Experts from nonprofit and arts organizations

Our wide-ranging, inspiring, and timely conversations not only helped keep us grounded but also informed priority areas for the Tourism Center’s work going forward. A few themes also arose from our discussions.

Key themes

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Putting it all together

The themes that emerged from my trips across Greater Minnesota align with priority areas the Tourism Center will pursue in the next few years — namely, outdoor recreation and natural resources, workforce education, and consumer intelligence. By doing so, we will continue to meet the needs of both our industry and communities to empower and support them for success and sustainability.

Author: Xinyi Qian, UMN Tourism Center director

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