Minnesota Tourism enjoys moderate growth in summer travel
“Good summer, all in all.”
This comment by a resort owner, one of more than 300 lodging and camping businesses that responded to a survey by Explore Minnesota Tourism, captures the overall sense of how well the June-August travel season fared in the state.
In the end-of-summer survey by the state’s tourism promotion office, most businesses reported that occupancy this summer was the same (31 percent) or higher (46 percent) than last summer. Overall, the survey results are more positive than those reported a year ago, and indicate a third year of moderate growth and continuing recovery from the impacts of the recession.
More than half (53 percent) of those surveyed saw an increase in summer revenues. Overall, room revenues at Minnesota lodging businesses were 4 to 5 percent higher this June and July than they were a year ago, according to Smith Travel Research, Inc. (STR). This summer, for the first time, inflation-adjusted lodging revenues in Minnesota exceeded pre-recession levels.
“This is good news for everyone in the tourism industry, and for travelers, too,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism in a news release. “People are out exploring Minnesota this summer, and that benefits many businesses and communities, and supports thousands of jobs.”
In addition to more lodging business, there are other indications of increased travel, as well. For the first six months of the year, the number of visitors stopping at the state’s highway Travel Information Centers was up 5 percent. The number of users of the state’s travel website was up 26 percent this year. And a sampling of tourist attractions contacted by Explore Minnesota Tourism indicated that, for most, visits this summer were the same or higher than last summer.
Eighty percent of accommodation businesses surveyed indicated that that they were in good financial health; 80 percent also indicated that they expected fall occupancy to be the same or better than last fall.
Several ongoing trends that developed during the recession are still having an impact on tourism in Minnesota. Consumers continue to travel closer to home, plan trips at the last minute, and look for deals and discounts. But in spite of the sluggish economy, consumers seem more willing to spend money on travel, in part due to pent-up vacation demand after several years of restricting their travel.
Tourism is an $11.3 billion industry in Minnesota, a key sector in the state’s economy. The leisure and hospitality industry, a major provider of tourism services, employs 235,000 Minnesotans.