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Tourism focuses on community, as well as attracting visitors

Tourism officials and small-business owners tout local benefits as they observe National Travel and Tourism Week.

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The trolley from Rochester Trolley and Tour Co. sits outside Forager Brewery as part of Monday's observation of National Travel and Tourism Week.
Randy Petersen / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Tourism can be about more than drawing visitors to the community.

“There’s a real intersection between what a visitor is looking for and what a local is passionate about,” Experience Rochester President Joe Ward said as local business owners gathered at Forager Brewery on Monday to mark National Travel and Tourism Week. “It’s finding the essence of the community, that fabric, that texture.”

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Forager Owner Annie Henderson said it’s something her business has experienced in the six and a half years since it opened.

She said the initial goal was to provide space for community-driven activities, but that grew into special events that brought people from other states and countries.

“We have this very interesting personality of being like a worldwide cool beer hub, but then people in Rochester support us because they think of us as a scratch-kitchen restaurant,” Henderson said.

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Chris Lukenbill, co-founder of Shrpa, said his Rochester-based business thrives on the connection between travel and community.

“We see that in all the communities we work with,” he said of the business that provides a digital platform to help people find entertainment and things to do throughout the region.

Ward said local experiences are key to promoting a travel destination, so anyone working in hospitality becomes an ambassador to visitors while also being crucial resources for local residents.

Laurel Elwood, president of Rochester Trolley and Tour Co., said her team understands that as they create tours with the start of a new season.

“They care about who we service, not only our visitors but our community,” she said.

Ward said the tours, as well as special events, can help visitors and those in town for medical appointments discover the city, but they also open new opportunities for local residents.

He pointed to the launch of the Night Market last year, which was initially expected to draw hundreds to the riverfront patio at Mayo Civic Center and ended up attracting approximately 8,000 attendees in one night.

Tiffany Alexandria, founder of the Night Market, said a second Night Market series is being planned after the inaugural year fulfilled its goal of exposing vendors to new opportunities.

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"You might not see those vendors on a day-to-day basis, but I feel they should be seen," she said, adding that the event also opens eyes to new opportunities for multicultural experiences in Rochester.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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