Babies, Buses & Bacon
First off, I'm excited to share the news that Rachael, our Chamber Director, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on Monday. Everyone is doing well and I couldn't be happier for them. Three-year-old big brother Hunter is especially smitten with Harper, his baby sister.
With Rachael now on maternity leave, I'm running the office solo for a while and I started out with a very busy week. I had the opportunity to spend all day Wednesday leading a bus tour of Grinnell for 21 travel planners. We submitted a bid proposal to host this annual tour in Grinnell, and were selected as this year's host community.
The travel planners came from all over Iowa as well as a few from Nebraska and Missouri. I think they were all impressed with our community, and I already know a couple of them are planning to bring their own bus tours to Grinnell next year. I also staffed a booth at the Iowa Travel Marketplace yesterday, which is a trade show where I was able to visit with about 60 travel planners and tell them about things they can do with their tour groups in Grinnell.
I attended the annual Iowa Tourism Conference two weeks ago. One speaker discussed food trends. He talked about how the general population's appetite for new foods has increased substantially with access to the Food Network, food blogs and social media.
Food trends have always existed, but they are so much larger economic opportunities today because everyone is now a "foodie" to some extent. He talked about how the cupcake trend can be traced back to a Sex in the City episode that included a scene with decadent cupcakes. Viewers of the popular show couldn't necessarily afford the fancy clothes and a life in New York City, but a gourmet cupcake was something that could be accessible to anyone, anywhere. I never would have guessed that was where the trend originated!
He also discussed the bacon trend, and how it is an industry-driven trend to increase demand for bacon. The pork industry's work paid off, because you can now find bacon on just about any menu, plus there are entire festivals dedicated to it.
Food trends are important because they create economic opportunity. People will travel for food. Just about everyone wants to be a "foodie" these days, especially millennials. They are looking for unique dining experiences where they can discover interesting dishes. Millennials value experiences over things, so we as a community need to get creative and keep thinking of ways we can design memorable travel experiences for our visitors.
The millennial population will exceed the baby boomer population this year and, even though millennials are low on funds, they value travel. Millennials' travel spending is expected to be equal to baby boomers' travel spending this year. So, while we certainly don't want to ignore the baby boomer population, we also need to be thinking about ways to appeal to the millennial traveler. Do you have ideas? If you were a visitor to Grinnell, what would you wish you could do/see/eat/experience?
P.S. Thank you to all who took a minute to vote in the city elections last week. We are co-hosting a "State of the City" event with the League of Women Voters next Tuesday and invite you to come and hear from city leaders.