Visit Duluth signs on for reduced marketing role with city

DULUTH – Visit Duluth will continue working with the city — in a reduced role — after the nonprofit tourism bureau’s board accepted an offer to provide convention, event and sports sales and visitor center services.

“We look forward to partnering with the city of Duluth and Bellmont Partners, the contracted marketing agency, and are confident that as a team we will continue to drive our industry forward,” the nonprofit told industry partners in an e-mail Wednesday.

“While this is a change from the past, we anticipate continued success and remain committed to doing our part to drive a strong tourism economy.”

Earlier this year the city chose Edina-based Bellmont Partners to lead tourism marketing for the city with a contract worth $1.8 million. Visit Duluth had been offered a $400,000 contract to cover convention sales at the time.

The new proposed contract, paid for with tourism taxes, will pay Visit Duluth $650,000 annually for three years.

The city will also pay $300,000 for a one-time purchase of the Visit Duluth website, social media properties and logo.

“I’m very excited about how we’re moving forward on tourism,” Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said in an interview. “Visit Duluth is really good in this area, and they have longstanding relationships and passion for the community.”

The Duluth City Council will vote on the Visit Duluth proposal, as well as the full $13.3 million in proposed tourism tax payouts, on Monday.

That figure anticipates a full rebound from pandemic-battered tax collections and includes $1.3 million from the fund’s reserves.

While about half of that money is required for debt payments on Amsoil Arena, the Minnesota Slip Bridge and Spirit Mountain, the remainder is spread among a variety of attractions and projects, including $450,000 for a cruise ship customs facility; $510,000 for Lake Superior Zoo; and $450,000 for Spirit Mountain operations.

There is also $100,000 earmarked for a tourism marketing position, which would act as a liaison between city government and the industry.

“It’s a position fully focused on arts, culture and tourism,” Larson said. “With how big that sector is here, it is time, and probably past time, to staff that appropriately.”

Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496

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