This is what three experts from the local tourism industry say, who were invited to speak to the young professionals from the Alexandria region on Thursday, April 1st.
AAYP is a group organized by the Alexandria Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce for business professionals under 40 who want to network and learn more about the area. At monthly lunches, various speakers are asked to introduce themselves to the group.
Greg Bowen, Brad Bonk and Carol Swenson were the guest speakers for this month’s panel.
Bowen studied marketing and played golf in his college years. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect to work in the hospitality industry, but he and his wife have been running Brophy Lake Resort for 13 years.
“What a fantastic choice it was not just to make her Resort lifeBut we love the city of Alexandria and the people who live here, ”said Bowen.
Bonk was working for the City of Willmar when the position of Superintendent of Douglas County Parks opened six years ago. He and his wife wanted to get closer to West Central Minnesota, where they grew up, so he took the opportunity.
Swenson said it accepted the job Offered by the General Manager of the Legacy of the Lakes Museum in 2018 because she was attracted to return to the region.
She taught in Alexandria as junior high in the 1970s, but it was her experience as director of the Otter Tail County Historical Society at Fergus Falls that increased her interest in local history.
“I really enjoyed going full circle around Alexandria,” she said. “The community, the sense of place and the enthusiasm of the community members.”
While all three expressed their passion for their roles, recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak a year ago proved challenging.
Bowen was afraid to answer the phone last March. It seemed like every time the doorbell rang, another rejection was expected.
“Usually (spring) is the time when procrastinators call out and fill in all of my holes,” he said.
Instead, his calendar was deleted.
In response, Brophy Lake Resort shifted the focus of its marketing to highlight additional hygiene measures, the safety of individual cabin reservations and outdoor venues.
Although in the past only sheets were cleaned between each visit, comforters were placed on the pile of laundry after a visitor had been through for four hours or two weeks. This increased the resort’s cleaning costs and laundry costs, but Bowen said they were willing to do whatever it takes to stay open.
Brad Bonk, Superintendent of Douglas County Park, speaks with Andrew Preston of Alexandria about the master plan for Lake Brophy County Park in April 2019. (Echo Press file photo)
In the world of parks and recreation, Bonk said, two opposing storylines emerged. There has been a “big, massive boom” in outdoor activities, but revenue-increasing events have been wiped out.
During home ordering and business interruptions, people flocked to campsites and beaches. Bonk said the public toilets needed to be cleaned seven days a week instead of one in order for sanitary measures to be respected.
On the flip side, the loaded summer schedule has been scratched with events booked for park facilities including concerts, triathlons, and 5K runs.
At the museum, Swenson said Legacy of the Lakes staff were reluctant to make specific decisions because COVID-19 guidelines changed frequently.
Interactive exhibits were cordoned off, furniture removed and sanitary stations provided. Due to the large meeting room, exceeding capacity was not an issue, but groups with family reunions or weddings scheduled last summer were advised to cancel.
One unexpected twist that ultimately benefited the museum was offering Facebook livestream videos instead of some in-person events. Swenson said they were able to reach a larger audience than she ever thought possible a June video Reached 54,000 views.
“It just became a whole different experience,” she said.
Bowen was looking forward to this summer season and said the resort’s cabins were fully booked again. Last year was only a slight decline in business, he said, and the year ahead “certainly looks brighter”.
Similar to Bowens Resort, Bonk said the use of hiking trails is increasing and campsites are filling up. But when it comes to bigger events, Bonk says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about planning them. A concert is provisionally planned for Brophy Park in August, but not a series of six shows as in previous years.
Swenson said the museum had again planned a full season of traditional events and held events in the gardens.
Since the majority of visitors hear about Alexandria orally, she added that local residents should tell others about the experiences they had here. She said that by sharing personal stories, it encourages people to visit Alexandria on their own to create their own memories.
“It’s an authentic community,” she said. “It’s not something man-made to attract tourism, but it’s a community that really cares. Tourism is an integral part of the city and the region. “