The Spam Museum in Austin

Southern hospitality

Cities in the state’s southland team up to boost tourism

By Tom Johnson

Four cities in southern Minnesota are banding together to boost regional tourism in a partnership called "Minnesota's Southern Hospitality." Albert Lea, Owatonna, Austin, and Faribault hope to promote the area by encouraging visitors to split their business among the cities  dine in one, visit a museum in the next, and stay at a hotel in another, for instance.

The partnership is a win-win for the area's hospitality industry, according to Cheryl Corey, executive director of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's all about partnerships these days, whether in small businesses, tourism, or among regions," she says.

Aside from promoting tourism in general, the partnership is a necessity for the occasional monster-sized event, such as the National Trappers Association meeting in Austin or the Red Power Tractor convention in Albert Lea. The latter drew more than 30,000 attendees, which can quickly overwhelm a single city's accommodations.

Corey says the group hopes to target the Twin Cities metro for its first round of town-hopping tourists.