Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Minot markets itself to Manitoba

North Dakota town a shopping destination

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BRANDON -- Falling snow and a falling loonie have Minot's marketing machine kicking into high gear.

Attracting Manitobans to the North Dakota city is already a challenge during the dead winter months following Christmas. But a weak Canadian dollar -- which ended the week at 91 cents U.S. -- is also working against the modest American shopping destination.

Wendy Howe, executive director of Visit Minot, said visitor traffic is slower this time of year but the city's tourism bureau has seen an "uptick" in Canadian traffic.

'Hotels are hungry for business also. They're providing a lot of deals'

"What we're hearing from Canadians is they're still finding a lot of great deals in Minot," she said. "Our visitors are saying there's more reasons to come to Minot."

The number of hotel rooms in Minot has just about doubled in the last three years to 3,000, which Howe said is driving down room rates. As well, a few new restaurants are also aimed at drawing bigger shopping crowds.

"Hotels are hungry for business also. They're providing a lot of deals, and weekend traffic is something they're really focused on... they're offering a lot of deals and specials specifically targeted to Canadians to try and beef up that traffic."

Craig Alexander, chief economist for TD Economics, recently said consumers could see the Canadian dollar slide as low as 85 cents U.S. by mid-year -- a level it hasn't closed below since May 2009 -- if the current environment continues, The Canadian Press reported in January.

Howe said Minot's tourism bureau is acutely aware of the faltering Canadian dollar and its marketing plan will be adjusted if the loonie continues to slide.

Wooing Canadian Prairie residents south is already big business for Minot and there's only so much more it can do.

About $250,000 -- nearly half of the small city's tourism marketing cash -- goes directly to marketing to Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

"We'll add to that if we think we need to and we'll be encouraging our stores and our hoteliers to do marketing of their own and to remind them that Canadians are going to be more dollar conscious as we get into the travel season," Howe said.

"That's the key to getting visitors back to Minot. Minot is becoming more of an option than it ever has been before."

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2014 A14

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