Summer Travel Forecast Is Bright for Minnesota

May 22, 2013

Contact: Joan Hummel
651-757-1850
joan.hummel@state.mn.us

St Paul, MN (May 22, 2013) – With travelers eager to get out exploring and the economy improving, Minnesota is poised for another season of moderate growth in tourism business. In fact, occupancy at Minnesota lodging businesses this summer is likely to surpass occupancy rates reached before the recessionary declines of 2008 and 2009.

In a pre-season survey by Explore Minnesota Tourism, the state tourism office, 38 percent of lodging and camping businesses expect higher occupancy this summer, and 46 percent expect occupancy similar to last year; 44 percent expect an increase in revenue for the summer season. This year's survey was completed by 240 businesses, including hotels and motels, resorts, B&Bs, campgrounds and vacation home rentals.

"Overall, our travel industry is pretty optimistic about the upcoming summer season," said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism. "Consumers are feeling better about the economy and their own pocketbooks, and there's pent-up demand to get out and travel."

Travelers are still somewhat cautious about their spending, however. Tourism businesses report an increase in customers seeking deals and discounts. "Minnesota is an affordable destination and a close-to-home getaway for our target markets, which appeals to budget-conscious travelers," said Edman.

A tenacious winter delayed the spring travel season, resulting in less travel for outdoor recreation in the past few weeks. In the pre-season survey, more than half of responding resorts and campgrounds reported that occupancy this spring was lower than last year. On the other hand, among responding hotels and motels, whose business is much less weather-dependent, more than half reported that occupancy this spring was up.

In fact, overall, Minnesota lodging businesses are having a very good year so far. According to Smith Travel Reports, demand for rooms was up seven percent for the first four months of 2013, with room revenues up nine percent. Expectations for the summer season are positive, as well.

After three years of moderate growth in travel, key metrics for Minnesota's lodging industry have finally surpassed pre-recession levels. As of April, data from Smith Travel Reports indicated that occupancy and revenue at Minnesota lodging businesses have recovered to levels of five years ago.

An unexpected spike in gas prices this month is a short-term concern, but high gas prices have not had a significant impact on Minnesota travel in the past and gas prices are expected to go down by the peak summer travel season.

The Explore Minnesota advertising campaign is underway in several Midwest markets, and visits to the state travel website and highway travel information centers have increased over the past year. According to recent research, each dollar spent on Minnesota state tourism advertising generates $84 in spending by visitors. "Communities across the state will benefit from the summer travel season," noted Edman.

About Explore Minnesota Tourism
As the state's tourism office, Explore Minnesota Tourism pursues an entrepreneurial approach, leveraging the state's tourism investment with increased involvement by the private sector. A council of representatives from the state's tourism industry strongly connects Explore Minnesota Tourism with tourism businesses and organizations. Tourism is an $11.9 billion industry in Minnesota, a key sector of the state's economy. The leisure and hospitality industry, a major provider of tourism services, employs almost 240,000, representing 11 percent of private sector employment. Leisure and hospitality also generates 17 percent of state sales tax revenues.

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