Duluth Tries to Reassure Tourists After Flooding
With the images of last week's flooding still fresh in people's minds, Duluth officials are planning an urgent advertising campaign in hopes of persuading tourists not to cancel their plans for a summer visit.
The campaign can't come soon enough for hotel managers, many of whom are fielding a large number of cancellations, the Duluth News Tribune reported. Several said callers were concerned after seeing images of Grandma's Restaurant deep in water in the middle of a flooded parking lot.
"They thought everything was underwater," said Bill DeSanto, chief operating officer of ZMC Hotels. "When they saw Grandma's underwater at the mall, everybody connected that with (Grandma's in) Canal Park. We got phone call after phone call."
Hotels from Canal Park to the downtown area were coping with a deluge of cancellations, even though those areas received little damage from last week's torrential rains.
The Inn on Lake Superior and the Edgewater, both owned by ZMC, had 200 cancellations last weekend, DeSanto said. The hotels' booking were reduced from 100 percent occupancy to 50 percent, and ZMC's two Twin Ports Best Western motels had 25 percent cancellations, he said.
And in Canal Park, the Hampton Inn had cancellations of 25 percent to 30 percent, said Lorri Drake, the hotel's general manager.
"We got a lot of phone calls from people asking if we were still open," Drake said. "They asked about Grandma's, they saw it underwater. They knew we were a couple of blocks away and thought we were underwater."
Duluth Mayor Don Ness said he understood why visitors might have those misconceptions.
"The images were so profound and so dramatic," he said of the storm's aftermath. "And for many days, all you saw about Duluth were these dramatic images of streets collapsing, raging water, and the impression people had was that it's not safe in Duluth right now."
The truth is, 99 percent of the community is in decent condition and the unsafe areas have been barricaded, Ness said.
The city hopes an aggressive advertising campaign can restore tourists' confidence. A resolution was hastily crafted this week to use some of this year's excess tourism tax collections for a broad public relations campaign.
The resolution, which authorizes the flood-related marketing and advertising effort through Visit Duluth, goes to the Duluth City Council for a vote Monday. Officials originally sought $30,000, but an amendment to increase the amount to $75,000 passed at Thursday's council agenda meeting.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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