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For Immediate Release
State of Minnesota

Media Contact(s):

Alyssa Hayes, Explore Minnesota
// C: 651-276-8738 // [email protected]

Meredith Kessler, Weber Shandwick
O: 651-308-6224

New State Tourism Director Aims to Move Minnesota into Top 10 Travel Destination

Explore Minnesota director and Governor Walz addressed tourism industry today during annual state tourism conference

ST. PAUL, Minn. (March 1, 2022) – Explore Minnesota, the state's tourism promotion office, kicked off its annual statewide conference today with remarks by Governor Tim Walz and Explore Minnesota director Lauren Bennett McGinty. Addressing hundreds of representatives from around the state, they shared a travel industry outlook for 2022 and new forward-thinking tourism strategies to rebound from $12 billion in travel spending losses since January 2020.

"Tourism businesses have faced tremendous challenges throughout the pandemic – yet they have remained steadfast in helping Minnesotans and visitors enjoy the beauty of our state," said Governor Tim Walz. "As Minnesota's tourism economy takes strong steps toward recovering, I look forward to working with Minnesota's tourism industry to continue working to make Minnesota a top travel destination."

Explore Minnesota also shared highlights from its annual report. Since the onset of the pandemic, Explore Minnesota has supported hundreds of Minnesota communities with more than $3 million in tourism crisis and recovery grants. The state's tourism businesses are recovering from pandemic impacts at different rates by sector and region. Some sectors, such as business travel, have been slower to recover, but according to a recent Minnesota tourism and hospitality industry survey, 39% of leisure travel businesses reported they were at or above pre-pandemic business levels, and demand for personal travel is expected to remain high in 2022.

"While we don't anticipate a complete return to pre-pandemic levels until late 2023 or early 2024, we are working our way back and anticipate stronger travel volume in 2022," said Lauren Bennett McGinty, state tourism director, Explore Minnesota. "Minnesota is a unique, four-season destination, and we have a major opportunity moving forward to position the state as a top 10 travel destination. After nearly two years of pandemic constraints, Explore Minnesota is ready to execute a new strategic direction to attract travelers from our state, around the country and across the globe who are eager to get back out, explore, and reconnect with the people and places they care about most."

Explore Minnesota Dreams Up New Strategies to Lure Visitors to the State  
Set to debut this spring, Explore Minnesota's new summer marketing campaign, "Dream State," invites travelers to revisit the magic of travel again as the world continues to recover from the pandemic. The all-new marketing effort will convey a mystical view of some of the state's most popular attractions, targeting travelers from traditional markets like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado. New in 2022, Explore Minnesota will expand its reach further east and west in Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. Some key markets include St. Louis, Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Milwaukee, Winnipeg and Thunder Bay. Explore Minnesota will also implement a new strategic direction, start diving back into national travel trade show opportunities, work to reintroduce international marketing tactics, and continue to expand its marketing footprint.

"The last two years have been challenging, but demand for travel is on the rise. While we can't forecast anything specific, we can be confident that we have a lot of exciting events like the 2022 NCAA Women's Final Four, 2022 MLS All-Star Game and 3M Open, and plenty of great ideas in place to build a bigger, bolder and brighter future for Minnesota's tourism industry," added Bennett McGinty. 

About the Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference
The 2022 state tourism industry conference took place at the Sheraton Minneapolis West and included remarks from U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, as well as keynote speeches from local and national thought leaders, including Adam Sacks with Tourism Economics and Minnesota Gophers Head Football Coach P.J. Fleck. The annual conference aims to engage attendees with inspiring sessions about marketing, communications, destination development, and diversity, equity and inclusion and more. The one-day conference featured both in-person and virtual learnings for 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.

For more details about the Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference, including remarks and session recordings, visit 

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 $1.0 billion in state sales tax on $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.