Council approves tourism plan | News, Sports, Jobs

Despite the reluctance of one of its members, Minot city council on Monday approved Visit Minot’s revised plan for improving tourism.

The board had previously agreed to write a letter of support to Visit Minot in its application for an Economic Development Administration grant for a “Start-up workshop” at the Scandinavian Heritage Center. The studio would include expanded retail space, shelving for pop-up shops, and meeting and collaborative working spaces for organizations and sports groups involved in the hospitality industry.

Visit Minot still pursues the concept, but instead of an expansion and remodeling of the heritage center, where the tourist office is located, the organization proposes to move to a city center that has not yet been finalized or identified.

Council member Tom Ross, who disagreed with the original plan, declined to support the new plan. Ross initially asked if Visit Minot was going outside of its tourist limits. He raised similar questions on Monday.

“I really want to get on board” he said, but he added, “I’m not sure I like the direction.”

Ross asked if Visit Minot is moving away from its goal of attracting visitors to fill hotels.

Stephanie Schoenrock, Executive Director of Visit Minot, responded that increasing hotel occupancy rates remains the goal, but the approach has changed.

“It’s modernizing our efforts” she said. “We need to do what we can to strengthen our entire tourism industry. When we strengthen our entire tourism industry, this in turn will have a positive impact on ‘heads in the beds’.

Schoenrock said the proposed project has been rebranded as the tourism industry marketing incubator, although the intent and product remains the same as the startup studio model. The schedule and cost, estimated at just over $ 1 million, are also similar, she said.

She explained that the change in location is because the Scandinavian Heritage Association, which also uses the heritage center space, is not supporting the expansion and renovation of the building. She said the 1997 Visit Minot contract requires the association to approve any overhaul of the building. The Minot Park District currently owns the building, although the association raised funds and constructed the center as part of the Scandinavian Heritage Park.

Ross asked if operating a business incubator puts Visit Minot in competition with other local businesses that help small businesses, whether in website design, advertising, or other functions. He cited concerns he hears in the community about Visit Minot moving away from its goal of filling hotel beds, which provides accommodation tax revenue that supports tourism marketing.

City council also approved a contract with Visit Minot last December which allocates $ 477,000 over three years to expand tourism, particularly sports tourism.

Schoenrock said an incubator model would provide tools to help businesses and hospitality organizations get to a place where they can use locally available business services.

Board member Paul Pitner said he appreciated Visit Minot’s courage to find a way to make his project a reality rather than giving up the inability to expand the heritage center.

“We have to be prepared to invest in ourselves and in our community if we are to reap the rewards, and that is what we are doing. We are moving this organization forward. We are becoming more resilient. We are preparing for the decades to come ”, Pitner said. “I wish Visit Minot the best of luck in their candidacy. I really hope we get it because it’s what’s best for Minot.

The board voted 6-1 to offer a letter of support for the updated project. Schoenrock said Visit Minot plans to submit the grant application in the coming weeks.

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