Mar 7, 2022 - Business

Meet Minneapolis launches PR push to woo back visitors

minneapolis

Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Meet Minneapolis is about to roll out its largest-ever public relations campaign in an effort to improve the city's image to the rest of Minnesota and convince people to come back downtown.

Driving the news: Last week the city's convention and visitor's bureau outlined a three-year recovery plan as it digs out from two years of COVID-19, civil unrest and public safety concerns.

Why it matters: Minneapolis hospitality businesses are suffering with a lack of tourists and business travelers.

  • Just 30% of hotel rooms in downtown were occupied in 2021, down from 68% in 2019, according to hospitality benchmarking firm STR.

What's happening: Meet Minneapolis is partnering with other business groups on a roughly $100,000 contract with local PR firm Padilla to "address reputational issues," Meet Minneapolis chair Dara Rudick said at last week's annual meeting for the organization.

  • Meet Minneapolis pointed to a survey of meeting planners who used age-old words like "cold" and "snow" to describe Minneapolis, but also "riots," "safety," "protests" and "George Floyd."

A bright spot: Major sports events are helping bring people back to the city this year.

  • The city will host the NCAA women's basketball Final Four with 30,000 people in early April.
  • A volleyball tournament in March will bring 25,000 people and the USA Fencing national championships with bring 10,000 in July.

Yes, but: Getting conventions and business travel back is key to a full rebound. Meet Minneapolis CEO Melvin Tennant said recovery in that area remains three years away.

Zoom in: The PR campaign will target people living within 50 miles of Minneapolis and focus on "convincing local brand ambassadors to visit and enjoy the things that make Minneapolis special," Rudick said.

Plus, Meet Minneapolis is lobbying the Minnesota Legislature for a bill that would allow hotels and municipalities to create tourism improvement districts that would increase funding to market their cities.

Between the lines: The perception that downtown Minneapolis is plagued by out-of-control crime remains a hurdle, leaders say, especially with folks from outside of the city.

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