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Katie Claire Schuler of Lutsen Earns The Visitor Service Award From Explore Minnesota

Katie Claire Schuler, Lutsen, received The Visitor Service Award during Explore Minne­sota’s 2024 Tourism Conference last month. This recognition is for an individual on the front lines of the tourism and hospitality in­dustry who provides outstanding service to and communication with the traveling public.

Explore Minnesota’s annual conference this year was held on February 27 at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. More than 500 hospitality and tourism professionals from around the state and region attended.

Schuler was recognized for her work as Di­rector of Guest Experience at Caribou High­lands Lodge in Lutsen.

“She is always smiling and sets a positive example for the rest of the team,” said Em­ily Haussner, General Manager of Caribou Highlands. “She consistently goes above and beyond.”

“I’m a really happy person,” Schuler said. “A fun person who bends over backward to delight our guests.”

Recognizing the responsibilities that Schul­er executes well at Caribou Highlands and its sister property, Mountain Inn, Haussner has given her the title of Rooms Division Man­ager/Concierge Extraordinaire. In addition to planning events and managing staff, Schuler even once stepped in to officiate the wedding of a couple whose planned officiant could not be there so that the nuptials would take place.

“As someone who is on the front lines of the tourism and hospitality industry, she truly embodies excellence,” Haussner said.

Schuler and her husband, Scott, live on Lutsen Ski Hill Road. They bought a build­able lot almost seven years ago and recent­ly moved into their newly completed house. She has worked at Caribou Highlands for four years.

The native of Howards Grove, WI, has been doing hospitality work her whole life. “Growing up, I was always the hostess at home, making sure our guests had what they wanted,” Schuler said. After nearly a decade in the hospitality industry in Florida, she moved back to Minnesota where she met Scott. The pandemic led them to relocate to the North Shore.

Schuler now has a hat trick of awards relat­ed to her work. Visit Cook County, the pro­motion organization for Cook County tour­ism, recognized her with its 2023 Heart of Hospitality award.

Her employer, Odyssey Resorts, Caribou Highlands, and Mountain Inn parent compa­ny, named her Manager of the Year.

“I love what I do. I love coming to work. I especially like working with my team,” Schuler said. “I want to thank everyone who supports me and visits our properties,” she added. “I hope to see you again soon.”

Explore Minnesota promotes Minnesota’s economy through tourism, talent attraction, and economic development marketing. Its mission is “to inspire consumers and facili­tate their travel to and within Minnesota.”

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan were keynote speakers for the award ceremony, signifying the importance of tourism to the state and their recognition of the efforts of people like Schuler.

Explore Minnesota reports the state’s tour­ism economy generated $11.7 billion in gross sales in 2020. That year, it had over 200,000 full and part-time jobs, roughly nine percent of private sector employment.

In a memo to Odyssey staffers, Haussner wrote, “Katie Claire’s dedication to guest ser­vice is truly commendable, and we’re incred­ibly proud of her achievements. Her passion for hospitality shines brightly, making her an inspiration to us all.”

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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