Josh Peterson, the executive director of Visit Bemidji, said the comeback of the TIC is an exciting time for the city and is also advantageous to its tourism industry.
“We realized last year, during COVID that people were still traveling and how much this center actually gets used,” Peterson said. “We would have people coming to our office windows asking for information, and it really was eye-opening as to how much information actually goes out of this building.
“There is also a need from the business community wanting to see this place reopened because it helps refer business. So I think we all realized that this is an important building that’s vital to downtown Bemidji and the surrounding area.”
The building, located at 300 Bemidji Ave. N, previously housed the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce. But when the Chamber relocated to the Mayflower Building in downtown Bemidji last year, the facility closed and never reopened in the summer months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, earlier this month, the Bemidji City Council approved a partnership agreement between the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Visit Bemidji, the community’s tourist and convention bureau, to open the TIC to the public this summer. Now, the center will be open every day, starting this weekend, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through September.
Both entities must also hire a seasonal, part-time employee to help operate the TIC. So far, Visit Bemidji has brought back Dean Beattie, a familiar face who worked at the center for about seven years until its closure.
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Additionally, a slew of volunteers will also be working at the TIC to help guide tourists in experiencing the town. One volunteer will always be partnered with one of the paid part-timers, Peterson said.
“We are just excited to have volunteers step up and say this building is important, the center is important and we want to donate our time,” Peterson said. “It’s been really overwhelming, and we’re excited to move forward and see the building open again.”
Peterson said people can expect to see “all the things that tourists come to expect from Bemidji” at the TIC, including all the Paul Bunyan memorabilia previously on display and information like maps and guides.
As of now, Peterson said he doesn’t yet know the long-term plan for the facility. However, he recognizes the abundance of opportunities and guidance that the TIC can provide to tourists in Bemidji this summer.
“At least for 2021, there’s a plan in place to provide those services again, because it is very much a need. And with the amount of tourism that we’re seeing, it’s something I’m glad we’re providing,” Peterson said. “We’re just excited at Visit Bemidji to hear the voices again and hear people coming in here being greeted. We want people to feel welcome and greeted by that friendly familiar face, and so the fact that we have that aspect back is exciting.”