Minnesota Tourism Experiences Strong Summer Season

Aug 27, 2014

EXPLORE MINNESOTA TOURISM – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State of Minnesota
Media contacts:
Erica Wacker, 651-757-1862 / erica.wacker@state.mn.us
Alyssa Ebel, 651-757-1857 / alyssa.ebel@state.mn.us

Minnesota Tourism Experiences Strong Summer Season
Explore Minnesota Tourism Highlights End-of-Summer Survey Results, Looks Ahead to Fall

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Aug. 27, 2014) – Despite this summer's slow start and high water levels in some areas, Minnesota experienced a strong summer travel season – the fifth year in a row of continued growth in travel. An end-of-summer survey, conducted by Explore Minnesota Tourism, revealed increased occupancy and revenue for the majority of Minnesota lodging properties, as well as a positive outlook for fall travel.

Nearly half of respondents (48%) said summer occupancy was up, and 58% cited increased revenue compared to the summer of 2013. In contrast, only 25% of respondents said occupancy was down, and 23% reported decreased revenue. Overall, 79% of respondents rated their current financial health as growing (36%) or stable, but positive (43%). The survey was completed by 222 Minnesota lodging businesses, including hotels and motels, resorts, B&Bs, campgrounds and vacation home rentals.

"These results show an encouraging trend for Minnesota tourism, and reflect a positive response to our new marketing efforts," said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism. "Minnesota continues to be an affordable, close-to-home getaway for our core target markets, and is becoming a more attractive destination for travelers from further away," Edman added.

The late arrival of summer and flooding/high water levels did affect some businesses, with 47% of respondents citing summer's late start and 22% saying water levels had a negative impact. These negative impacts were most pronounced for campgrounds and resorts. However, the majority of respondents said they were not impacted by water levels (73%) or the late arrival of summer (50%).

Additionally, lodging metrics from Smith Travel Research Inc. showed stronger growth for Minnesota compared to the U.S. overall in June and July. July was a particularly strong month, with 76.3% occupancy statewide; the U.S. overall rate was 73.6%. This is also the first year that Minnesota occupancy rates have exceeded pre-recession levels in these months.

Explore Minnesota survey respondents' outlook for fall travel was similarly positive, with nearly a third (32%) expecting increased occupancy and 40% anticipating higher revenue than fall 2013. Only 20% and 23%, respectively, predicted occupancy and revenue will be down. And according to national projections, the season should be off to a strong start, with AAA forecasting 34.7 million American travelers over Labor Day weekend – the highest volume since 2008.

"2014 has been, and will continue to be, a strong year for Minnesota tourism. We share the industry's optimism for the future and are excited to entice even more travelers to explore Minnesota," noted Edman.

"Only in Minnesota" Campaign Proves Successful, Continues into Fall
Explore Minnesota debuted its "Only in Minnesota" travel marketing campaign in advance of the summer travel season and achieved impressive results. The strategic effort, which included a new and improved website and market reach to audiences in 14 states and provinces, was the largest travel marketing campaign in the state's history.

Digital media placements delivered more than 212 million impressions, while the official campaign hashtag, #OnlyinMN, generated 39.8 million impressions on social media from mid-April through mid-July. Digital billboards, train and building wraps brought Minnesota to life for commuters in Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The campaign will continue this fall in the five-state region, with new TV and radio spots supported by digital and social efforts. To help consumers follow the fall colors in real-time, Explore Minnesota is introducing "10-Day Minnesotans" – prominent travelers with extensive social media followings – to document the unique places, events and activities that can be found only in Minnesota.

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About Explore Minnesota Tourism
As the state's tourism promotion 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 a $12.5 billion industry in Minnesota, and a key sector of the state's economy. The leisure and hospitality industry – a major provider of tourism services – employs more than 245,000 workers, representing 11 percent of Minnesota's private sector employment. Leisure and hospitality also generates 17 percent of the state's sales tax revenues.

See what's happening right now, only in Minnesota, at exploreminnesota.com and join the movement via @exploreminn on Twitter and Pinterest, or @exploreminnesota on Instagram and Facebook, using #OnlyinMN.