CVB collaboration could help tourism

Published 9:41 am Friday, March 8, 2013

A little teamwork goes a long way.

Such is the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau’s reasoning. The CVB recently partnered with similar groups in Albert Lea, Faribault and Owatonna to pull in more tourism and accommodate overflow lodgings when one community has a major event.

“The idea originated from one of our CVB board meetings,” said Cheryl Corey, executive director at the Austin CVB.

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About a year ago, during an annual retreat, CVB members were talking strategy on how to promote the Austin area. One member brought up the opportunity for partnering work.

It was a concept that had come up before. When Albert Lea had the Red Power Tractor show last year, visitors filled Austin hotels and made local attractions part of their trip. The idea took off, and soon others were suggesting nearby communities that shared a lot in common with Austin.

“We all have museums, we all have theaters, we all have historical centers or historic homes,” Corey said.

The CVB contacted its counterparts in Albert Lea, Faribault and Owatonna. Each was receptive, Corey said, and work started on putting together an online brochure called “Minnesota’s Southern Hospitality Visitor Guide” to showcase the region. The guide is now available on the CVB website at

Right now, the goal is to get visitors from the metro area to come south and take a “loop” through the four communities. Corey said early efforts are looking promising, and the partnering organizations plan to meet again to keep the idea going.

In the future, the Austin CVB and its partners also plan to visit their respective county commissioners and city councils to introduce their idea. Corey will also present the partnership during the next Southern Minnesota Tourism Association meeting. The 36 counties in the SMTA already contain a similar partnership between Wabasha, Winona and Lanesboro.

The partnership does not ignore that nearby communities sometimes compete for visitors and the business they bring.

“Albert Lea and Austin already have rivalries in many areas,” Corey said, adding commerce is no exception. “In that respect, I think there’s some competition.”

At the same time, however, communities within the SMTA work together for the collective goal of bringing visitors to the region, and that’s the main goal, Corey said.

“It’s a win to get them to come to southern Minnesota,” she said. “It’s a regional thing and group mentality.”