Supporting & Advocating Development | Bonnie Carlson

Bonnie Carlson

President & CEO

Bonnie Carlson, President and CEO, has been with the Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau for 33 years of service and has made significant contributions to the state’s travel industry. Bonnie has been at the forefront of the hospitality industry, crafting and supporting policies and initiatives promoting the sector at every level – local, state, national, and international. She has been active in several other tourism organizations, including the Explore Minnesota Tourism Council, the Executive Committee of the United States Travel Association, Destinations International, and the Minnesota Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

“From the beginning, I always believed in our mission and the work that we do for our hospitality community, and I believe my enthusiasm and dedication to succeed were at the forefront of building the company,” says Bonnie. 

“When I was given the opportunity to lead the company, it felt very natural to me, and I had a sense of confidence that I could make a difference and grow our organization to something bigger and more meaningful. I felt that this was the path I was supposed to take and that it was meant to be.”

Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing organization of the city of Bloomington, Minnesota. As such, they promote travel and tourism to the city, its partners, local attractions, and the surrounding communities. They are also here to help answer any questions people may have about Bloomington, whether someone is organizing a meeting in the Twin Cities or a family vacation to Mall of America®. Bloomington is known as the City of Hospitality, and Bloomington has more hotel rooms than downtown Minneapolis’ central business district and downtown Saint Paul combined. They are essential in hosting large conventions or events in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area. And, of course, they are home to the renowned Mall of America.

A Strong Leader

As a leader, besides being dedicated and passionate about the business, Bonnie always tries to be approachable, friendly, articulate, and caring. When it comes to men vs. women, Bonnie thinks it does come down to the difference in the style of how they lead. As a rule, women often show more compassion and humility, and they take a hands-on approach and dig in more, which she feels best describes her leadership style.

“I maintain high expectations for my team members, and I believe in their ability and push them to achieve both personal and professional success. Effective communication is the quality that plays the most important part in this focus,” says Bonnie. “Growing up I had an uncle who was leading a national sales force for a large company, and I always admired his ability to lead his team with decisiveness and confidence, which led him to achieve great success. I would also say closer to home, I have always been inspired by Marilyn Carlson Nelson and her creativity, dedication, and passionate leadership traits; she made it look so easy.”

For Bonnie, spending time with her family and enjoying her close friendships are essential for her well-being; they bring her great joy.” I also try to stay true to myself and my values and not have a false sense of importance. I lean on my spiritual beliefs and believe that positive thoughts and actions result in positive things. Solving problems and helping people bring me happiness,” elucidates Bonnie. “I am sincere and meaningful in everything I do. For my team and clients, I am a trustworthy source for the good, the bad, and everything in between. I strive to learn from my mistakes and know that there is always room for improvement. I want to be the very best in the industry.”

Towards the Future

Bloomington is a city with new development opportunities, and Bonnie wants to ensure that their organization continues to support and advocate for development that will complement Bloomington’s largest industry – hospitality. This includes supporting new projects enhancing Mall of America and other unique businesses that our residents and visitors can enjoy. “Destination marketing organizations, known primarily for their marketing, communications, and brand management, have expanded their leadership roles and evolved as key partners with cities and communities,” explains Bonnie. “We support initiatives in future development and social issues that impact our destinations and have proven to be an asset within these areas.”

Hospitality is Bloomington’s largest industry, and good service is essential to the customers to ensure repeat business for hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments. Twenty-five years ago, Bloomington Convention the Visitors Bureau started a program called the Diamond Service Awards, which recognizes front-line service personnel for their excellent customer service. “It’s done in an Academy Awards–style ceremony and has become the most popular program for our industry. More importantly, this one-of-a-kind program has turned the spotlight on our exceptional workers and their contributions to this industry and the success of Bloomington,” says Bonnie.

For the future, the Bloomington leaders have great vision and dedication for growth. Bonnie is excited about the future development in Bloomington, mainly in the South Loop area around Mall of America. Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau is also anxiously awaiting the decision on whether the United States wins the bid to host the 2027 Specialized Expo, which would be in Minnesota. The actual site of the Expo would be in Bloomington, which would be a huge economic win for both Bloomington and the state of Minnesota. “As for me personally, I am excited about the future. I work in a great city and remain committed to and passionate about the travel industry and Bloomington,” adds Bonnie.

" I am sincere and meaningful in everything I do. For my team and clients, I am a trustworthy source for the good, the bad, and everything in between. "

Bonnie Carlson

President & CEO

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