Hospitality booms: 3 million visit Rochester in 2015

Haley Peterson assist guests at the front desk of the Kahler Grand Hotel Tuesday afternoon August 30, 2016 in downtown Rochester, Minn.

The hospitality industry in Rochester hit new highs in 2015 as the city attracted more visitors than ever before and more spending at local businesses.

Rochester for the first time last year hosted 3 million annual overnight visitors, according to a report published Monday by the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau, the official marketing agency for the city of Rochester.

Visitors to Rochester spent $465 million in direct spending, as tracked by the RCVB, and had an overall economic impact on the local economy of $1.2 billion. Economic impact is tracked by a third-party service that uses local market information, according to RCVB Executive Director Brad Jones.

"I think we're proud of the numbers," Jones said Tuesday. "We think they're going to grow and that there's a lot of opportunity here that we continue to hear about. Obviously it's predicated on the growth of Mayo Clinic and the growth of destination care that's happening there."

Mayo Clinic continues to be by far the most popular reason for visitors to travel to Rochester; in 2015 about 67 percent of visitors listed Mayo Clinic as the primary reason for their visit. Another 16 percent visited for conventions or sports events.


The RCVB in the last year has focused its efforts on visitor experience, a transition away from its "heads in beds" approach that has been a mainstay of municipal visitor bureaus.

"We've wanted to get to a point where our focus is more about attracting visitors, getting them here and then the overall economic impact they create," Jones said. "By doing that, we broaden our scope of partners we work with. It's not just about the lodging sector, it's about restaurants, it's about retail, it's about transportation."

The bureau's focus on visitor experience culminated in April with its launch of the Experience Accreditation program , a partnership with Mayo Clinic and Destination Medical Center. Nine Rochester hospitality industry businesses so far have received accreditation through the program.

The hospitality and tourism industry is the second-largest industry in Rochester — behind health care — and in 2015 provided more than 14,000 full-time jobs, according to the RCVB.

Rochester has grown to adapt to the demand for hotel rooms and hospitality services. The city last year had 5,873 total rooms at 57 hotels in the city. Renovations and new construction provided 610 new rooms in 2015, a jump from the 350 rooms added between 2013 and 2014.

The market has absorbed the new inventory, Jones said. Occupancy rates from 2014 to 2015 changed about one percent.

Jones presented the report Monday at a Rochester City Council committee of the whole meeting . Council members had previously had concerns for how construction at Mayo Civic Center could affect convention and hotel bookings, and how an increase in hotel rooms could affect occupancy.

The report addressed both of those concerns, Council President Randy Staver said.


"All in all I think the report was received very positively," he said. "We've been able to work through the renovation (at the civic center) as well as the expansion of hotel capacity. They're not detracting form the interest in Rochester."

The report is available for review online at .

Related Topics: TOURISM
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