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Duluth launches new 'Love It Like We Do' tourism campaign to draw visitors

After putting a private firm in charge of tourism marketing, the city of Duluth is targeting the Twin Cities and other parts of the Upper Midwest with the campaign.

DULUTH, Minn. — Duluth is certainly no secret to anyone who lives in Minnesota. 

But this year, the city has implemented a new, aggressive marketing campaign to draw tourists not only from the Twin Cities and Minnesota, but also the Dakotas, Wisconsin, and communities within a 400-mile radius of the North Shore. 

The campaign even has a slogan: Love It Like We Do.

"We are so excited," Mayor Emily Larson said in an interview with KARE 11, "to be telling the story of Duluth in a new way."

That new way incorporates advertisements on television, radio, digital billboards, social media, and even streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify, all ramping up in April as people start to book their summer vacations. 

To assist in these efforts, the city of Duluth hired Twin Cities public relations firm Bellmont Partners, along with partner Lawrence & Schiller, for $1.8 million dollars, putting these private entities in charge of tourism marketing rather than longtime lead agency Visit Duluth. The switch was not universally embraced in Duluth, but the city has kept the "Visit Duluth" branding in place and hopes fresh leadership will produce results. 

"We really are building a very intentional expansion of audience," Mayor Larson said. "Really telling stories about: Who are the people who help make the tourism industry work? Why is this one restaurant famous for that sandwich? What is the story behind the person who gets to work on the Lift Bridge? Really trying to resonate."

Duluth's tourism industry is a vital part of the local economy, employing more than 15,000 people in the region while generating "hundreds of millions of dollars of impact," according to the city. 

While COVID-19 presented obvious challenges to Duluth, the mayor said the tourism numbers this year are "already really pacing well ahead of where we were before the pandemic," and city leaders hope that will continue into the peak summer months.

Larson said she's already heard from family and friends in the Twin Cities who've seen the new advertisements. The new campaign also reaches other media markets in the Upper Midwest, like Fargo/Moorhead, Rochester, La Crosse, Eau Claire and Wausau. According to a press release issued by the city, "the campaign will target primary groups like families, adventure seekers and those 55+, along with niche audiences who are passionate about outdoor recreation, food and drink, and arts and culture."

In addition to the regular summer events in Duluth, like Grandma's Marathon, the city is also looking forward to the commissioning of the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul next month, which is sure to draw big crowds.

"We are just really thrilled," Larson said, "that people will see us in a new light." 

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