Biz Buzz: New vision for tourism season

Typically, Explore Minnesota unveils its marketing campaign as part of the kickoff to the travel season. This year, the campaign is called Dream State and is focused on inviting people to “revisit the magic of travel again as the world continues to recover from the pandemic."

People sit around tables in front of speaker and big overhead screen.
Lauren Bennett McGinty, new director for Explore Minnesota, speaks to a gathering previewing the summer tourism season. The April event, at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, was hosted in partnership with Brainerd Lakes, Crosslake, Pequot Lakes, Nisswa and Cuyuna Lakes chambers of commerce.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

NISSWA — Lauren Bennett McGinty, new director for Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism promotion agency, is following in the role after the retirement of longtime director John Edman.

With a host of catchy marketing campaigns over the years aimed at bringing tourists to Minnesota and attracting in-state visitors to lake country, a new campaign recently launched following a national reflective movement.

McGinty spoke in April at a tourism summit at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa.

Explore Minnesota’s role is both to elevate Minnesota as a travel destination and to facilitate visitors. The state reported $12 billion lost in travel spending during the past two years of the pandemic. Explore Minnesota provided more than $3 million in tourism crisis and recovery grants.

Typically, Explore Minnesota unveils its marketing campaign as part of the kickoff to the travel season. This year, the campaign is called Dream State and is focused on inviting people to “revisit the magic of travel again as the world continues to recover from the pandemic. The all-new marketing effort will convey a mystical view of some of the state’s most popular attractions.”


The campaign will target travelers from within the state, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado. This year, the state reports the campaign will also reach farther east and west to include Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Montana, Wyoming and Utah and along with key markets in St. Louis, Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Milwaukee and Canadian cities of Winnipeg and Thunder Bay.

Asking people what they are looking for when traveling, McGinty said the feedback was about a more reflective experience, an internal feeling that has come from the pandemic. That reflective messaging was found in other states revolving around taking more time to experience the world after being away from it for so long, McGinty said.

The Enter Your Dream State video promotion from Explore Minnesota for the summer tourism season begins with an image of the moon filling the night sky. <br/><br/>

“So we saw this as a strategic opportunity to really shift the messaging that we were doing as for Minnesota, and try to capture that moment right now and really show people that Minnesota has everything to offer. And we want to show you that in some really magical ways,” McGinty said, noting the Dream State campaign, which focuses on the experience from nature to food, activities and events. The video clip begins with the narrator asking if the moon really filled the entire night sky.

“It feels magical,” McGinty said. “It is beautiful, and feels like something you never really experienced in this world. And that's what we want. We want people to take stories from their visits of Minnesota, and go out and tell everybody how amazing it was, magical, really expand that story, time over time. And so this was a really wonderful way to capture, you know, that feeling of going out into the world for the first time.”

McGinty said the response has been positive and she thinks the spots are hitting the right tone.

McGinty said Explore Minnesota is currently involved in strategic planning and is now in the first phase in creating a lot of differences in the way the agency does things. .

More Biz Buzz:
The last vestiges of J.C. Penney, which were visible yet this spring to the facade of the building, are gone. Hobby Lobby has transformed the long vacant building inside and out.

“And this is a huge initiative that I took on when I first started because we're coming through one of the most difficult times in our lives, as a world,” McGinty said. “And mostly the hospitality industry has just never seen something like this before. So I really wanted to take all of your voices and put it into what a new plan is for tourism in Minnesota and make sure that we were hearing what you had to say, hearing what you want to see from us, and put that into action.”

McGinty said the new plan should be put into action in July.


Closer at hand is the Governor’s Fishing Opener. McGinty said when they planned it they really weren’t sure what they would be able to do but they are adding activities now they didn’t think would be possible.

“So it's coming back in a wonderful way,” she said.

When asked about spending in terms of marketing, McGinty said Minnesota is in last place in terms of neighboring states for those budget dollars but she also noted Minnesota kept its tourism budget while some other states lost theirs during the pandemic and are now getting it back. Explore Minnesota Tourism had a total biennial budget in fiscal year 2020-21 of $28.4 million in general fund appropriations, and $1.4 million in revenue through advertising sales and marketing programs. The agency also reports it partners with public and private organizations to maximize resources.

RENEE RICHARDSON, Brainerd Dispatch managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
What To Read Next
Get Local