Travel Scene: Survey confirms 'exciting trend for Minnesota tourism'

Three bicyclists pedal into Lanesboro during the Labor Day weekend. The trail, and all of Lanesboro, was busy this summer that was excellent for tourism in Lanesboro and the state.

There is plenty of good news as Minnesota's summer travel and tourism season winds down.

Word from Explore Minnesota, the state's official tourism agency, is that Minnesota's summer travel season was the strongest on record since 2008. Favorable weather and a stronger economy were two of the key elements for the surge.

Explore Minnesota's annual survey, which tracks the state's lodging business growth and financial health, reveals that the figures are at their highest level since the first gathering of comparable data in 2008.

More than half of the respondents — 51 percent — said their summer occupancy levels were up, and 62 percent cited increased revenue compared to an also strong 2014 summer travel season.

By contrast, only 22 percent of the respondents said occupancy was down, and 17 percent reported deceased summer revenue.


Overall, 87 percent of the respondents rated their current financial health as growing or stable, but positive.

The survey was completed by 244 Minnesota lodging businesses, including hotels and motels, resorts, B&Bs, campgrounds and rentals, reported Explore Minnesota.

John Erdman, Explore Minnesota director, who recently was named State Tourism Director of the Year by the U.S. Travel Association, said "these results continue an exciting trend for Minnesota tourism, and along with a strong economy indicate that our marketing efforts and 'Only in MN' campaign are working. Minnesota is an attractive close-to-home getaway for our core target markets and is entering the radar screens of more travelers from further away."

July was a particularly strong month, according to an Explore Minnesota press release, with 78 percent occupancy statewide. The U.S. overall rate was 75 percent.

The outlook for fall travel in the state also is strongly positive, with more than a third of respondents expecting increased occupancy and 45 percent anticipating higher revenue than fall 2014, according to the report.

The Labor Day Weekend traffic was anticipated to be higher — forecasts called for 35.5 million Americans to hit the road.

Minnesota's tourism industry accounts for $13 billion a year, say analysts, and "we share the industry's excitement for the future," Erdman said.

Explore Minnesota's prime marketing effort, "Only in MN," featured two new TV spots as well as radio, print, digital and out-of-home advertising, including painted murals in Denver and Chicago. The program also welcomed four "10 Day Minnesotans" — prominent travelers with extensive social media followings — to document their travels here.


To date, the popular #OnlyinMN hashtag has been used more than 200,000 times and Explore Minnesota has amassed more than 200,000 fans on social media.

The campaign will continue this fall in the five-state region.

With tourism a key factor in the state economy, the leisure and hospitality segment provides employment for more than 250,000 workers, representing 11 percent of Minnesota's private sector employment. That segment of the economy provides 17 percent of Minnesota's sales tax revenues.

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