City Council hears annual tourism report

Published 7:02 pm Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Discover Austin Director Nancy Schnable presented her 2020 annual report to the Austin City Council during the council’s regular meeting Monday evening.

According to Schnable, lodging tax saw a 43% decrease in 2020 from 2019, bringing in only $109,601.48 in 2020. Likewise, travel was down with only nine groups and 326 travelers welcomed to Austin last year. This contrasts to 2019, which saw record numbers of travelers in Austin thanks to events such as the Governor’s Pheasant Opener.

The decreases were the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a stay-at-home order from Gov. Tim Walz as well as the temporary closure of “non-essential” businesses such as restaurants and bars.

Schnable did note some positives, such as an increase in Discover Austin social media followers, including a 35% increase of followers on the organization’s Instagram page. She also spoke of efforts on the part of Discover Austin to continue to promote tourism, such as Restaurant BINGO and the 53-foot Austin, Minnesota, semi trailer that will travel the country and promote Austin for the next 10 years.

Schnable also pointed out that travel writers such as the Writer Mom Blog and Twin Cities Frugal Mom traveled here in 2020 and wrote features on Austin. A travel article on Austin was also featured in the Mankato Free Press in 2020.

The council unanimously approved participation in the Office of the State Auditor’s performance measurements program during the meeting. The survey allows for citizens to weigh in on city services; the results are used to help plan, budget, manage and evaluate programs and processes for optimal future outcomes. A link to the survey can be found at www.ci.austin.mn.us/city-survey.html.

The council also unanimously approved the 2020 audit report during the meeting. The audit was conducted by CliftonLarsonAllen, who found no outstanding issues or concerns.

Mayor Steve King proclaimed May 28-31 as Buddy Poppy Days. The poppies, which are distributed annually by the VFW, help raise funds to support disabled and needy veterans as well as the widows and orphans of deceased veterans.