Here are 10 reasons why travel and tourism matter on the Mesabi Iron Range:
10. Self-awareness. When folks from the “outside” visit us and give us feedback, it helps us understand who we are and how others see us. If we care about that we can accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and be better for it!
9. A chance to shine. Who doesn’t love a chance to be the best in the room? Having visitors to our area is like having guests in your home: you get to show off your beautiful house, your wonderful recipes and your wellbehaved children.
8. Leverage. This is what happens when attendance at attractions and trail usage increases due to visitor traffic. When we can demonstrate a need to improve, enhance and maintain services, doors are opened for grant funding, bonding dollars and other sources of support.
7. Spin-off. The development of ATV trails or public water access could lead to new businesses, like ATV or kayak rentals. Increased visitor traffic encourages entrepreneurs to serve them (and us!).
6. Education. We have a great story to tell. The world should know the Mesabi’s place in history. Visitors give us the opportunity to educate the world about our amazingness.
5. Investment. National statistics bear out the fact that people are more likely to move to and start businesses in places they’ve visited first as tourists.
4. Shared success. When a business that serves tourists and travelers does well, the whole community benefits: their staff, contractors and vendors all earn more when more visitors come to our area.
3. Recruiting. A healthy visitor economy means that we have attractions, amenities and events that people want to be part of. What makes us attractive to tourists makes us attractive to new hires.
2. Jobs. Tourism jobs are good jobs. The small businesses that benefit from visitor traffic support families in every town on the Mesabi. And, a career in hotel management, for example, is a great career. Plus, people who spend time in hospitality jobs, even as teenagers, are more successful later in life than those who don’t. And ask any employer: the “soft skills” obtained in hospitality jobs, like learning to work with the public and being a great ambassador for your business/ your community, are very much in demand in almost any industry.
1. Money. The cities of Hoyt Lakes, Aurora, Biwabik, Buhl, Gilbert, Virginia, Eveleth, Fayal, Mt. Iron, Chisholm and Hibbing receive some portion of approximately $66 million spent by overnight guests to our area each year. I think we’d miss that if it was gone!
Let’s think about tourism the same way we do about any other industry: the jobs travel and tourism support, and the people who have them, are important. If people are visiting our area, it means it’s a great place to visit, and that means it’s a great place to live. Improvements we make to attract visitors will benefit all of us. Travel and tourism matter, right here on the Mesabi.
Beth Pierce is director of the Iron Range Tourism Bureau, a nonprofit destination marketing organization that helps promote the area to potential visitors, investors and workforce, and partners with area businesses and other nonprofits to help raise the profile of the Mesabi Iron Range around the state, country and world.