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The Partnership Director at Visit Winona spoke to Saint Mary’s students about the importance of tourism marketing at a Nov. 12 presentation.

Kate Carlson, The Partnership Director at Visit Winona, calls herself the ‘cheerleader’ for Winona. Her job entails her to educate non-Winonians about Winona and why it should be their next tourist destination. “We want Winona on people’s mind,” Carlson said.

Visit Winona promotes Winona as a year-round destination for visitors with goals to create a positive economic impact for local businesses and organizations and to provide unique experiences to those who visit.

Visit Winona targets four different audiences: Baby Boomers, The Adventure Family, The Experienced Millennial, and the Outdoor Junky. Tapping into these specific target audiences helps with executing and promoting the right content to reach the right audience.

Carlson emphasized the importance of knowing your audience, “ Everybody is a marketer, everybody is a communicator, you just have to know your audience and where you are getting your information.”

Carlson also enjoys promoting Winona to former Winona residents who get a sense of nostalgia from the content being posted, “We tap into that nostalgia by featuring local businesses and organization on our social media channels that engage our followers who used to live in Winona,” Carlson said.

Carlson also mentioned that parents of current college students frequently visit and follow the Visit Winona Facebook page as a way to know what is going on in the Winona community. “They want to feel like they are apart of your experience,” Carlson said.

Through Visit Winona, Carlson has been able to try different marketing strategies to engage her audience. From enlisting social media influencers to creating Winona-specific merchandise, Carlson has been able to sell Winona as a must-see tourist destination.

Carlson explained that her marketing techniques focus on how to make Winona stand out from all the other places people could visit, “This type of marketing and engagement is a fun, unique, advocation of Winona,” Carlson said.

One major project that Carlson worked on was putting together a Winona area coloring book featuring local businesses and organizations (Saint Mary’s University was included in the completed coloring book). Carlson worked with local businesses and organizations along with three local artists to make sure the coloring book was an accurate representation of the city of Winona.

The coloring book was successful, “ Residents were picking it up and sending it to their family members in California and New York,” Carlson said.

Another successful addition to the Visit Winona services was adding a newsletter called “This week in Winona” which was originally distributed to 20-30 people, mostly hotels, as a way to inform their visitors of the events going on in Winona that week. Now it is in such demand that it is emailed every Monday to over a thousand people.

Besides creating merchandise, working with local businesses and organization, and engaging people on social media, Carlson expressed that there are a plethora of traits and skills needed to be successful in the tourism industry, from strong writing and editing skills to photography and video editing skills.  

The most important skill Carlson emphasized was having people skills, “Really know your audience and ask the right questions.”

Carlson concluded her presentation by allowing the students to ask her questions.

The presentation inspired students to stay behind and inquire about potential internships with Visit Winona.