Chamber plans to beef up focus on tourism

The Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce and Office of Tourism is on a roll to put the Cloquet area on the map once and for all. Over the past couple of years, the chamber and its tourism committee have taken on a new commitment, not only to promote ...

The Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce and Office of Tourism is on a roll to put the Cloquet area on the map once and for all.

Over the past couple of years, the chamber and its tourism committee have taken on a new commitment, not only to promote local tourism but to support others who have the same message in mind.

The chamber recently released its 2007 "Tourism Year in Review" report, sporting the area's colorful new logo (a fall scene along the banks of the St. Louis River), as well as its slogan ("Water, woods and wonder") and a prominent invitation to visit its sleek, newly revamped Web site ( ).

According to the chamber's executive director Kelly Zink and its tourism chair, Keith Bakke, the group has adopted as its mission statement: "To generate economic activity during periods of available opportunity, with a focus on generating overnight lodging in Cloquet."

"To so many of our guests and visitors to this area, Lake Superior is the number one draw," said Bakke. "With all of the traffic heading up I-35, we're trying to build awareness that Cloquet is here and we have things to offer, too. Travel is truly a regional thing. The more amenities and attractions in the area, the bigger the draw."


To that end, the chamber has been working on some exciting initiatives.

"We've been trying to find the appropriate means of advertising on the Explore Minnesota Web site," said Bakke. "We're thinking of creating a 'webisode,' where amateur photographers use their own video cameras to record various scenes around the county. It's kind of like a commercial without being a commercial. In fact, it almost has more credibility - kind of like word of mouth versus an advertisement we might have someone create."

In addition, Bakke said the group has been busy totally overhauling the chamber Web site this year.

"What was effective a few years ago is no longer effective," he said.

"Literally, we just got it up and running this summer and we're still working at it," added Zink. "If anyone out there has anything they think we could add, let us know because we're still trying to look for input."

The Chamber Tourism Committee also continued to work with the Carlton County Historical Society during 2007, providing support to the society's unique new "Big Day Cloquet" event.

"[Director] Anne [Dugan] has really been proactive with that event and an active participant on the tourism committee, so I think we will continue to see more things out of that relationship," said Bakke.

"Different approaches are good, and I think that applies to our tourism and marketing as well - differentiate yourself from the others."


Another thing the Chamber Tourism Committee is working on is a semiannual newsletter to keep members and the city council apprised of its efforts.

"Our 2006 goals went out in a report to all chamber members with their dues packet, and we did a quarterly update in the chamber newsletter," said Zink. "Now it's been condensed and will be published in either the newspaper or the Lumberlog."

"Our thought is if we do this twice a year, there's a lot to be said about educating and reminding our local community about just what activities are going on and things to do. People sometimes forget we have white water rafting right in our backyard."

"We drive past things every day that maybe we don't see with the same set of eyes," added Bakke.

The chamber has also set up funding for promotion of the connection of the upcoming extension of the Munger Trail into the Cloquet area.

"Once that happens, it's going to be a wonderful thing for us to market because bicycling is so big," said Bakke, "and now, if you can bike or walk or cross country ski along the river, all the better."

In addition, as part of its current initiatives, the chamber tourism group is becoming more active in the quarterly meetings of the Northeastern Office of Tourism as part of its effort to enhance its role in regional tourism.

The chamber's tourism grant program also continued to be a key part of its initiatives, with a budget of some $5,000 a year to provide seed money to help groups and organizations promote special events.


The grants are funded through the Cloquet/Scanlon lodging tax. Bakke said the lodging tax, which amounts to 3 percent of all transient (overnight) lodging in the two communities, generally brings in around $42,000 annually. During 2007, some of the grant recipients included the Cloquet Classic Car Show, the Fourth of July Parade, the St. Louis River Rendezvous, Big Day Cloquet, the USPCA National Drug Dog Trials, the Lake Superior Cycling Club, Bentleyville and the Old-Fashioned Christmas Celebration.

"It's pretty rare that we've had to turn somebody away," said Bakke. "The lodging tax dollars can only legally be spent on marketing, however, so if someone comes to us wanting funding to provide dinner for all the participants, it doesn't cover that."

The chamber and its tourism committee has also nearly finalized a hiking and biking brochure, tying it in to a two-sided visitors' guide that contains a map of the area and walking and hiking trails along the river and in Pine Valley.

Other promotional efforts during the year included advertising with snowmobile publications, a billboard near the North Branch exit on I-35 and hockey coupon bags for those who come into the area for games and tournaments.

The chamber's tourism committee has seven to eight members and meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 10:30 a.m. in the chamber conference room.

"We are always looking for new input," said Bakke, "and if people have suggestions and want to pass them along to the chamber, the committee would be happy to consider them. That helps us come up with new ways to promote the area."

Bakke and Zink said the tourism committee plans to start working on its 2008 goals in another month or so.

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