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For Immediate Release
State of Minnesota

Media Contact(s):

Alyssa Hayes, Explore Minnesota
O: 6517571857 // [email protected]

Minnesota Tourism Industry Talks Road to Recovery

Explore Minnesota Hosts Free Statewide Virtual Conference on Tourism, Attracting Record Attendance

ST. PAUL, Minn. (March 2, 2021) – Today, Explore Minnesota, the state's tourism promotion office kicked off its annual statewide conference on tourism, virtually. Governor Tim Walz and Explore Minnesota director, John Edman addressed more than 648 Minnesota tourism leaders from around the state about COVID-19's devastating impact on the industry and optimism for late 2021. According to Tourism Economics, the pandemic-related travel downturn has cost Minnesota roughly $7.1 billion in travel spending losses.

Explore Minnesota shared highlights from its annual tourism industry report, including key economic indicators from 2019 and initial findings from 2020 that affirm the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Minnesota's tourism economy, a critical sector of our state's overall economy. Preliminary estimates show that leisure and hospitality employment decreased by 73,000 (-27%), to 202,000 jobs in 2020. Hotel and lodging occupancy declined 41% statewide, more significantly in the Twin Cities metro area.

Today's opening session also featured remarks from national leaders, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Roger Dow, president and CEO, U.S. Travel Association, Chris Thompson, president and CEO, Brand USA, in addition to a 2020 mashup of Minnesota tourism industry success stories from spirited communities throughout the state.

"The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on Minnesota's tourism industry, but our tourism businesses are resilient and have found ways to help visitors enjoy the beauty of our state safely, providing much-needed respite and relaxation during this challenging year," said Governor Tim Walz. "As our state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, I look forward to continued partnership with Minnesota's tourism industry to ensure we come out of this pandemic stronger than ever."

Explore Minnesota's free virtual conference engaged attendees with inspiring sessions about marketing, communications, destination development, and diversity, equity and inclusion, with keynote speeches from several of the nation's top tourism thought leaders including economist Anirban Basu. Conference attendees included representatives of visitors bureaus and other tourism organizations; hotels, resorts and campgrounds; and a variety of attractions, such as museums, parks, zoos, malls and historic sites.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Minnesota's travel and tourism industry for years to come. Despite these challenges, our industry has persevered, showing what travel means to all of us," said John Edman, Explore Minnesota director. "I'm pleased to see so much interest and enthusiasm around this conference learning opportunity as we consider the path to tourism recovery for our communities, businesses and state's economy."

For more details about the virtual Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference, including remarks and session recordings, visit Remarks from Gov. Walz and Explore Minnesota director, John Edman can also be found here. The conference continues with an additional half day of sessions tomorrow, Wednesday, March 3 from 8–11:45 a.m.

About Explore Minnesota
As the state's tourism promotion office, Explore Minnesota works to inspire consumers and facilitate travel to and within Minnesota while pursuing an entrepreneurial approach and leveraging the state's tourism investment with increased involvement by the private sector. A council of tourism industry representatives connects Explore Minnesota with tourism businesses and organizations throughout the state. Tourism is a key sector of the state's economy, historically generating $16.6 billion in leisure and hospitality sales and employing nearly 275,000 workers in Minnesota's leisure and hospitality businesses.

Visit, and share your sights with @exploreminn on Twitter, or @exploreminnesota on Instagram and Facebook, using #OnlyinMN.