Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, and Lisa Paxton, Brainerd Lakes Chamber chief executive officer, joined tourism officials from around the state Wednesday in a meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton to discuss potentially increasing funding for the Explore Minnesota Tourism marketing program.
Ward and Paxton, chair of the Explore Minnesota Public Policy Committee, were joined by Denelle Hilliard from Visit Bemdiji, Bill Foussard, owner of the White Bear Lake Country Inn; and John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism.
The group proposed reforming the use of the state’s existing 6.2 percent car rental tax and directing it toward marketing Minnesota tourism. The car rental tax was put in place for the Super Bowl in 1992; this proposal would return it to its original purpose of promoting tourism.
“We had a great meeting and Gov. Dayton expressed his support for our proposals,” Ward said in a statement. “While we still have a great deal of work to do to make this a reality, I want to thank those who have worked so hard to get us to this point.”
Investment in Minnesota tourism marketing has fallen to near 1990 levels, down to $8.3 million, ranking 30th in the nation, according to a statement from Ward. The statement said regional competitors such as Michigan, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Illinois, and Montana outspend Minnesota as well.
Ward said in a news release tourism generates 17 percent of Minnesota’s sales tax revenue and employs more than 250,000 people. One in 10 Minnesotans works in the tourism industry.
“Tourism touches nearly everyone,” said Rep. Ward. “It impacts the tourism business owners, their employees, and the businesses that indirectly benefit from expanding tourism. By investing $7 million, we can generate around more than $100 million in wages and help create 3,600 new jobs — which will also boost state and local revenue, helping to alleviate budget issues.”