Tourism industry undertakes assessment; seeks help from residents
Tourism is a big business in Minnesota. Last year alone, visitors spent more than $15 billion on tourism-related expenses throughout the state. In Richfield, thousands of visitors eat, dine and stay in the city every year. Moving forward, the city’s Tourism and Promotion Board is dedicating 2020 to undergo a tourism assessment to learn if there is more it can do to increase the number of visits to the “Urban Hometown.”
The year-long project kicked off in earnest on Tuesday, January 7, when the tourism board, in conjunction with the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, held its first community meeting at the Richfield Community Center to begin developing an inventory of tourism assets.
“From parks to restaurants to recreation opportunities, Richfield has something that can appeal to any potential visitor,” explained Ward 2 City Councilmember Edwina Garcia. “It is my hope that the tourism assessment undertaken by Visit Richfield will provide the city with a roadmap to grow our tourism industry.”
The mission of Richfield Tourism and Promotion Board, more commonly known as Visit Richfield, is to promote activities related to regional and statewide advertising of the City of Richfield’s hospitality industry. The organization has helped promote and sponsor the growth of several city-wide events, such as the Urban Wildland Half-Marathon and Red, White and Blue Days.
The organization has seen tourism steadily grow over the decades, but thought it was time to gather as much information as possible and put a plan together to grow the tourism industry.
“As an organization, we feel we know what our selling points are when it comes to tourism appeal in Richfield,” said Visit Richfield Director Katy Epler. “However, tourism experts, such as the ones we are partnering with for this project, may see something we are missing or suggest different approaches.”
The tourism assessment process starts with an inventory of tourism assets, which are identified by community members. These assets include natural and built attractions, services, facilities, human resources and events.
After the inventory of assets is completed “mystery visitors” are employed to provide perspectives of someone visiting the city for the first time. These individuals sample the restaurants, attractions and accommodations and report back on their impressions.
Next, a team of tourism experts visits Richfield to assess the local tourism assets. They also facilitate conversations with residents that identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for tourism in the community.
Lastly, the final step in the tourism assessment program is a written report with finding and suggestions to help the tourism industry identify goals, which will be compiled and presented at the completion of the assessment process.
“A strong tourism industry bolsters all areas of a community,” remarked Epler. “It brings more money into the community. It brings more visitors to the city. It also raises awareness and enhances prestige. All of these elements are important to building a stronger overall community and that is what we are hoping to do through this tourism assessment.”
Minnesota communities such as Clinton, Faribault, Hastings and Lindstrom have all participated in the University of Minnesota’s tourism assessment program in the past and have seen increase tourism in their respective communities.
For the tourism assessment program to be successful, it needs resident participation.
Residents and other city-affiliated individuals interested in participating in the tourism assessment are encouraged to attend the next community meeting, which will take place on Saturday, January 25 at the Wood Lake Nature Center from 9:30-11:30 a.m.
“The first community meeting was a highly-interactive experience,” said Garcia, who attended the first community meeting. “A lot of fresh perspectives were shared about what we have to offer to visitors. Hopefully, we can get even more residents to the next meeting. The more people who participate, the better the assessment the tourism board can accomplish for the city.”
For more information or to get involved in the tourism assessment program, please contact Visit Richfield Director Katy Epler by emailing email@example.com or calling 612-558-1671.