For Immediate Release
State of Minnesota
Minnesota Travel and Tourism Landscape During the Pandemic
Explore Minnesota Reveals Current State of Tourism Industry through 2020 Summer Business Survey Findings, Traveler Sentiment and more
ST. PAUL, Minn. (Sept. 2, 2020) –Winding down from the important summer travel season in Minnesota, it was a time unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The season has delivered a mix of bright spots with a surprise surge in summer business for some and record low demand for others. According to Tourism Economics, the pandemic-related travel downturn has cost Minnesota roughly $5 billion in travel spending losses mid-March through Aug.
Explore Minnesota, the state's tourism promotion office, recently surveyed various Minnesota lodging businesses and destination marketing organizations about current travel and business impact. Summer in Minnesota was a season of strong divide between resorts and campgrounds, and hotels and motels. Greater Minnesota reported stronger tourism business than the metro region, which experienced a major downturn in meeting, convention and event business.
Survey: 2020 Minnesota Summer Lodging Business
Results from Explore Minnesota's annual post-summer survey revealed significant adversity for tourism business in Minnesota, along with some surprising success. The survey was completed by 307 Minnesota lodging businesses throughout the state, including hotels and motels, resorts, B&Bs, campgrounds, houseboat operations and vacation home rentals. Consistent with close-to-home travel trends during the pandemic, nearly half (47%) of respondents reported that a larger than normal share of their guests were Minnesota residents.
Survey results confirmed that resorts and campgrounds performed better than hotels and motels. Lodging and camping properties in greater Minnesota fared better than properties in the metro area.
Compared to summer 2019, 61% of respondents said revenue was down, and 58% reported decreased summer demand. By contrast, 29% of respondents said revenue was up this summer, and 31% of respondents saw an increase in demand. Nearly one-third of respondents stated business activity has surpassed pre-COVID levels or has returned to pre-COVID levels (31%), but 21% don't anticipate business returning to pre-COVID levels until at least 2022.
Looking ahead to fall, respondents reported similar trends. Compared to fall 2019, 22% of respondents expect revenue to be up this fall, and 24% expect fall demand to be up. Conversely, 59% anticipate fall revenue to be down and 56% expect fall demand to be down. 20% of respondents expect business will be the same as fall 2019.
Survey: Minnesota's Destination Marketing Organizations During COVID-19
Explore Minnesota also surveyed Minnesota destination marketing organizations in mid-July, addressing a wider range of topics and summer revenue across major tourism sectors, including activity levels of lodging, attractions, restaurants/bars, business travel, leisure travel, group travel, and meetings/conventions. A total of 53 destination marketing organizations responded to the survey.
89% of responding destination marketing organizations reported cancellations or postponements for at least 75% of their community's 2020 spring and summer events. By contrast, most organizations reported that resorts and campgrounds have fared well. Respondents also rated their local business owners to have more positive sentiments than residents for welcoming tourists to their communities.
"With more Minnesotans vacationing in state and regional travelers from drive markets, segments of our industry such as resorts, camping and outdoor recreation saw an increase in customers. However, with business travel, conventions and large events canceled, many saw steep declines in revenue that will be difficult to replace," said John Edman, state tourism director, Explore Minnesota.
Consumers continue to venture close-to-home, seeking safe and controlled experiences, including outdoor activities. According to Longwoods International, inconsistent COVID-19 safety protocols across cities and states are causing travelers to feel confused and hesitant about taking trips. Additionally, border closings, travel bans and suspended air routes to and from Minnesota have halted international travel until 2021. Civil unrest about racial inequality has also impacted how consumers feel about travel in the U.S.
Approximately one-third of American travelers have tentative trip plans for the remainder of 2020. Those consumers are largely seeking travel experiences to spend time with loved ones, enjoy nature and avoid crowds, according to Destination Analysts.
Travel Marketing in 2020
In compliance with Phase III of Minnesota's Stay Safe Plan to gradually reopen society, Explore Minnesota markets safety guidelines and safer leisure travel resources on its COVID-19 travel hub at exploreminnesota.com, and has introduced close-to-home marketing efforts to inspire consumers with a message of optimism and wide-open spaces. In addition, various destination marketing organizations throughout the state have launched travel safety campaigns for their communities.
"The tourism industry has been significantly impacted and is ever-changing due to COVID-19. Navigating and surviving the pandemic has become a marathon instead of a sprint, but our state's tourism businesses are resilient, and Explore Minnesota will continue to work to help support tourism businesses however we can to help them survive," Edman added.
Explore Minnesota survey summaries and other Minnesota tourism research can be downloaded here. In addition, U.S. Travel Association regularly reports on COVID-19 travel industry research.
About Explore Minnesota
As the state's tourism promotion office, Explore Minnesota pursues an entrepreneurial approach, leveraging the state's tourism investment with increased involvement by the private sector. Tourism is a $16.0 billion industry in Minnesota, and a key sector of the state's economy. The summer season accounts for 37% of annual expenditures. The leisure and hospitality industry employs nearly 273,000 workers, representing 11 percent of Minnesota's private sector employment. Leisure and hospitality also generates $1.0 billion of the state's sales tax revenues. Minnesota welcomes more than 73 million domestic and international travelers annually.
Visit exploreminnesota.com, and share your sights with @exploreminn on Twitter, or @exploreminnesota on Instagram and Facebook, using #OnlyinMN.