Visit Duluth

My first order of business today was to head up to the church men’s group meeting and introduce the CEO of Visit Duluth, Anna Tanski. I am a pretty nominal member of the group but I end up writing the promos for our speakers to the church bulletin and often leading the group in church hymns to start the meetings.

I’d seen Anna on Almanac North a week ago but managed to forget to mention it during my introduction of her to the group. I didn’t forget to zing her for being a Packer fan however so I got the important stuff mentioned. Anna passed out the pamphlet that visitors to Duluth get and I marveled at the pictures. What a photogenic city we live in. There is a lot to do in our area and Anna said that area taxpayers are able to reduce their taxes annually by $300 because of the taxes paid by tourists. As I think about that now I can’t help but wonder if ISD 709 couldn’t justify raising taxes next year using that as an excuse. Times 30,000 households that would be $9 million bucks. That’s about how much we have diverted from our general fund to pay off Red Plan Bonds. It would be nice to have that money back for the classroom. Sorry, Visit Duluth. That’s the kind of heretical thinking a desperate man clings to as he faces the ocean pouring over the edge of the Earth.

This comes from our tourism taxes on the 3.5 million visitors Duluth attracts each year although I presume some portion of this comes from Duluthians who eat out at area restaurants. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll take it and much more if we can boost our tourism numbers.

As we closed our meetings and wandered off I passed on an idea that had been rattling around in my head for ten or fifteen years. I suggested to Anna that it might be a good idea to offer a booklet like the National Parks (and even Minnesota State Parks) give out to their visitors modeled after a passport. They encourage visitors to get their “passports” stamped each time they get to a new national park. I suggested Duluth could do the same thing. We could have area white water rafting, companies or ski hills or the Zoo or the Vista King stamp passport books of our area attractions. Then for people who fill enough slots we could offer some premium, a discounted meal at an area restaurant perhaps, although I think just filling up the booklet would be its own reward.

We might even have a “club” for people who get the entire booklet filled in with checkoffs or an award for the people who get the most area attractions visited in a single year. If we boosted lodging and restaurant taxes enough maybe ISD 709 could justify a cut of the action.

Of course, the subject of the Central site came up. What might it do for tourism? Anna mentioned that one developer had come up with the idea of cable cars or a tram or something but shelved the idea because of the fear of liability. Its an interesting idea but I have to admit it might be serious competition for Enger Park which already has a spectacular vista to Central’s west.

Anna commented with a nod to me that I might know something about the difficult politics of this town on the subject of the Central site. I told Anna I had no idea what she was talking about.