Hospitality industry readies for DMC

As plans for Destination Medical Center take shape, the Rochester hospitality industry is planning for an anticipated increase in visitors.

"We are expecting the number of visitors to double over the next 15 to 20 years. If we are successful in diversifying, it could be even more than that," said Brad Jones, of the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau.

As more people come to Rochester for medical care, the demand will increase for lodging, transportation and dining options, and Jones has some concerns he would like to see addressed to better accommodate those needs.

"Lodging is important. It's a big part of the visitor experience," he said. "We have some concerns over limited service hotels, the rooms-only operations without food or beverage service. Looking at the research — what visitors tell us makes a stay comfortable — the desire is for select and full service accommodations."

Guests want hotels that have a restaurant, a meeting space and room service. Jones said that many hotel guests in Rochester spend close to six hours of awake time in their rooms and that hotels are considering ways to accommodate that need by adding, for example, different comfort areas.


He said guests also want to be connected by skyway to leisure activities, such as fine dining, shopping and cultural events.

"We are looking at the idea of a convention and hospitality district," Jones said.

One of the city's biggest needs is adequate convention space, he said. "The venue is important."

Jones noted the effect the National Volleyball Center has had on bringing tournaments to Rochester.

"This is one area we have been able to diversify and bring visitors into our city, increasing tax revenue," Jones said.

"We also have to address transportation concerns," he said. "We are close to an international hub. We need to consider how to use the airlines to the fullest. The question of how best to bring people from the Twin Cities — whether by train or shuttle or airplane — is being discussed."

Jones said there will also be a need for extra staffing in areas of hospitality. "Currently, there are 12,000 full-time employees in hospitality. We need to look at where more employees are going to come from."

He said an important first step is the hospitality component of C-Tech — the Career Technical Education Center at Heintz expected to offer a program in hotel and restaurant management.


Some of those currently serving in the hospitality field have already taken additional training intended to more fully assist visitors. Dan Nelson, general manager for Hampton Inn and Suites north, reports that during the past two years, 800 employees have been trained in the Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program.

"We in the lodging industry were already discussing ways to share best practices in order to give hotel guests excellent service, and when DMC got traction, we decided to pursue CTA training," Nelson said.

The training is intended to give "front line" employees useful information they can share with visitors — some Mayo history, area attractions, directions — things that will make a visitor's stay more comfortable.

Nelson said he sees the potential for a large influx of people coming to town, from corporate visitors, patients to the proton center, and those seeking a wellness getaway.

Noting the additional 1,000 rooms now being added to the city's lodging options, he said his hotel will not be part of that quick reaction, but may, in a couple of years, look at expansion.

"Currently, we have limited room availability from Sunday night to Tuesday night, since typical appointments at the clinic are Monday through Wednesday." He predicts that as more people try to get appointments at the clinic, the schedule may have to adapt to accommodate a greater number of patients, creating an increase in mid-week arrivals.

Also, Nelson said the addition to Dan Abram Healthy Living Center could bring another wave of visitors.

"The wellness component of this is huge. Mayo will become known for the full gamut of health care. Not just the place to go for critical care, when your life is on the line, but for world class advice on how to live a longer, stronger, better life."

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