I received an email this past summer after our Zartico Summer Road Trip that made me smile.
“In a time of Zoom and crazy Covid-ness, it’s so great that you took the time to come out to Lansing and visit us. It set a great tone for the rest of the process.”
It came from Julie Pingston, CEO of Lansing CVB, and it reminded me of the importance of safe, in-person meetings. It cemented the significance of getting in the car, no matter the season, and driving to see people, face-to-face, in their destinations.
The Zartico Winter Road Trip had a little more inherent risk as the Midwest in February isn’t usually synonymous with pristine driving conditions. In fact, the highways actually have gates that are used to shut down the interstate in extreme winter conditions. Nonetheless, we rolled the dice and fired up the rental car the morning after Valentine's Day on a Midwest loop from Saint Paul through Rochester, Des Moines, Sarpy County, Sioux Falls and Mankato.
It was great to stop in Rochester and connect with tourism veteran Bill Von Bank. Minnesota’s third largest city has a unique position as home to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. They welcome hundreds of thousands of patients annually from around the world. Utilizing Zartico’s global geolocation data, we talked about Rochester’s ability to gain better intelligence on the medical tourists and where they go within the destination when they’re not at the medical facility.
A few hours south, we rolled into Iowa’s capital city, Des Moines, where we met our colleague Elizabeth Comried, a native Iowan, in person for the first time (we’re a remote company). Turns out it’s as fun to meet your colleagues face-to-face as it is to meet potential clients.
Des Moines hosts a tremendous number of events (sports, conference, concerts) every year and it was fun to imagine gaining a better understanding of what events are driving traffic and what the broader impact is on the community after the event is over to help determine the most impactful events to attract to the Greater Des Moines area.
A post-meeting stop at Buzzard Billy’s allowed for some much needed grub and a local brew before gassing up and heading towards Omaha. After checking into our hotel, Nebraska provided some of that Midwestern hospitality that sets them apart. We stopped in a local watering hole that we soon realized didn’t have a menu - everything they offered came in liquid form. Nonetheless, the bartender recommended Barrett’s down the street and called them to let them know we’d be down before the kitchen closed at 9:30pm. We walked in and sure enough they were expecting us, were all smiles and served up one of the best Philly cheesesteaks I’ve had in my entire life, including in Philly. We finished up, thanked them, and called it a night.
Just outside of Omaha, we stopped at Werner Park and the offices of Sarpy County Tourism. The county is the third most populated in the state and is home to the Kansas City Royals minor league affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers. Besides being fun to say, Sarpy offers “rolling hills, lush forests and crystalline rivers in the shadows of shopping, museums and draft rooms and distilleries.” It provides visitors with a quiet place to stay within a short drive of both Omaha and Lincoln. Numerous ideas flowed from our conversations on the benefits of data driven decisions, especially for smaller DMOs.
We spent our last night of the road trip in Sioux Falls enjoying the local food scene with a delicious burger at Remedy Brewing Company. We stopped by the Falls which as you might imagine weren’t exactly flowing in the single digit temperatures but still beautiful with the sun reflecting off the ice. With leisure travel steadily improving, Sioux Falls is anxiously awaiting the return of meetings and conventions (just like the rest of the industry). With a historical look back to January of 2021, the data will be able to show how quickly business travel is returning and when it has reached, and hopefully surpassed, 2019 levels.
After snapping some pictures at the Falls, we headed for Minneapolis, St. Paul but couldn’t pass up the chance to stop and say hi to Anna at our most recent Minnesota client, Visit Mankato, in southern Minnesota.
The road trip was over. Four states, three days, two friends and one rental car that took us 997 miles to share the things that #OnlyZartico can do.
And that makes me smile, too.