Our friends in the Brainerd lakes area hospitality industry must be doing something right.
That's one initial reaction to the recently released Tourism Center survey, which was sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension Service and presented this month at Central Lakes College.
The most striking aspect of the study is the incredibly high rate of return business that resorts, motels and restaurants benefit from in the lakes area. More than 90 percent of this area's tourists are repeat visitors.
"You lose very few people," William Gartner of the Tourism Center said at the presentation. "They keep coming back and back and back."
A high rate of repeat tourism business means the customer is satisfied with the product. Whether the business is a manufacturer, a small cafe, or a newspaper, a high business priority is to keep the steady customers happy. In the tourism business there are always variables which business managers can't control. No one can promise a potential customer sunny days and warm temperatures during the summer or abundant snow in the winter. No chamber president can make the fish bite.
As a result, much of the tourism industry's success here must be attributed to the front-line men and women who serve this area's visitors. The food servers, bartenders and housekeeping employees who work hard to make their guests' stay here a pleasant one.
Other tidbits of the study included:
-- The two-, three- or four-day getaway is just as popular as the traditional week that is spent at a resort.
-- The average Brainerd area visitor spends $81.91 per day, slightly higher than the state average of $79.
-- An increasing number of tourists are booking vacations on the Internet, rather than just looking at images of the area.
-- Brainerd area visitors are primarily Minnesotans who make it their primary destination.
The fact that this region has thrived even though we're miles from the nearest interstate highway indicates that our identity is well established. People want to come here. We benefit, no doubt, from our central location in relation to larger Minnesota cities -- just two or three hours by car from Fargo-Moorhead, Duluth and the Twin Cities.
So to those who work in the tourism field, we say keep up the good work and see what can be done about providing more snow for snowmobilers and hungry fish for the anglers.
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