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Otter Tail County tourism study nearly done

Published 11:38am Thursday, August 22, 2013 Updated 7:54pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The results of a study related to tourism in Otter Tail County should be released to the public by the end of September, according to one of the main people involved in the study.

Jordan Wente, a junior statistics and economics double major at the University of Minnesota, Morris, said he and his fellow investigators, including Kelly Asche and Ryan Pesch, will be meeting with members of the Otter Tail Country Tourism Association during the next few weeks to give them a first draft of their results.

Nick Leonard, the immediate past president of Otter Tail Country Tourism Association, said a plan for such a study first came about through an economic development group spearheaded by several Otter Tail County commissioners. One of the group’s meetings focused on tourism.

“We really didn’t believe we had distinguished ourselves from other areas in the state,” Leonard said.

From there, the Tourism Association got in contact with the Center for Small Towns at Minnesota, Morris. The study began in earnest in late May and was sent out via email and physical email in mid-June. Wente said the investigators stopped receiving completed surveys August 9 after getting more than 1,000 responses in total.

“It’s a very brief survey, it probably only takes 10 minutes to fill out,” Wente said.

The goal of the survey was to find out why Otter Tail County has proven to be a destination spot in Minnesota for tourists. The questions used in the survey followed a five-point scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

Wente said the survey was set up to learn more about what he called the “brand equity” of the county measured on four dimensions — awareness, image, quality and loyalty.

The researchers are in the middle of analyzing the data, but so far Wente said the numbers show the majority of county tourists are repeat visitors, typically older and come with family members, none of which came as a surprise to Wente and his fellow researchers.

Wente said the survey results should help Otter Tail County businesses and city officials better understand what tourists see as both positives and negatives during their trips to the area.

“I think it will be good for them to see the responses from people that are out of town,” Wente said.

Leonard said the Tourism Association is prepared to develop a new logo and advertising plans based on the information they are presented in their meeting with the researchers. He also said the group will roll out a state-of-the-art website this fall that will cost more than $30,000, the majority of which will be funded by group members.

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