Tourism Season Looking Bright as Minnesota Nears Summer
As the unofficial start of summer kicks off with Memorial Day this weekend, a recently conducted survey of Minnesota lodging businesses forecasts a positive season ahead for Minnesota’s tourism industry.
Conducted by Explore Minnesota, the survey was answered by 241 entities, including hotels and motels, resorts, bed-and-breakfasts, campgrounds and vacation home rentals.
More than 40 percent of these respondents expect summer revenue to be up, while 39 percent anticipate increased occupancy compared to the 2017 season.
“We are very pleased to hear that Minnesota's lodging industry is expecting yet another strong summer,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota, in a statement. “With the late start to spring, travelers are eager to hit the road to find new and unique experiences across the state this season.”
In addition to the weather circumstances of the year, survey participants credited the positive summer outlook to – among other contributors – a good economy, their own marketing efforts, customer service, new or renovated facilities and social media inspiration.
The statewide #OnlyinMN travel marketing campaign launched a few years ago was credited with helping generate 3.3 million trips and nearly $384 million in spending for the 2017 season, and it has only been bolstered for the 2018 campaign. This boost includes the addition of one new TV spot on top of three returning from 2016-17, a pilot Connected TV program, and sharing the story of unique travel experiences across the state on multiple advertisement platforms.
The campaign alone, however, hasn’t been able to hide a Minnesota trademark: its long winters. Explore Minnesota’s survey found that due to the extended winter, spring occupancy and/or revenue decreased, according to 34 percent of respondents. Outdoor-oriented businesses were identified as particular victims of the late arrival of spring, more-so than hotels and motels.
The presence of vacation home rentals has served as another challenge for some, as it’s led to a loss in customers and a struggle to compete with lower rates, though some survey participants said the rentals have helped bring more visitors to their areas. Meanwhile, a common challenge reported was workforce shortage.
Despite these obstacles, 80 percent of respondents said overall, their financial health is growing or stable.
This positive status and outlook for the coming season matches national trends, as AAA projects nearly 42 million Americans will travel over Memorial Day weekend alone. That will mark the highest travel volume since 2005, and the fourth consecutive year of increased overall travel.
The summer forecast is also in line with overall tourism trends for Minnesota seen in 2017. A study released earlier this month by Meet Minneapolis found that in just the Twin Cities visitor spending increased to record levels – up 2.6 percent to $7.8 billion last year compared to $7.6 billion in 2016. That spending was paired with a 2.5 percent increase in visitors – about 33 million people total for 2017.
This summer, the cities will attract visitors with events including the X Games in late July and the State Fair in August, but there’s excitement to be found throughout the state.
Noting summer-specific offerings account for 37 percent of travel expenditures and help contribute to a $15 billion leisure and hospitality industry, Edman highlighted the state’s “thousands of lodging accommodations, nearly 12,000 lakes, 500 golf courses, 4,000 miles of bike trails, to-notch parks and so much more.”