Explore Minnesota's Strong Summer Tourism Outlook

Now that it is officially summer, tourism season is certainly in full swing here in Minnesota. And despite lingering uncertainty in some parts of our economy, travel and tourism levels are returning to some all-time highs.

This summer family trips are on the rise. Nationwide, more than 92 percent of families surveyed by Trip Advisor plan to travel this summer, up from 85 percent who did so last year. Of those taking family trips, 55 percent will travel with their spouse and children, and 20 percent will travel with extended family.

Another recent national survey provides a similar positive outlook for summer travel. According to Airfarewatchdog.com, 83 percent of travelers plan on taking at least one vacation this summer. And they are spending more money—on average $4,467—leading the site’s president George Hobica to speculate, “It would appear that big budget travel is making a comeback.” And call it the effect of a late spring or simple procrastination, but as of mid-May nearly half of travelers (46 percent) haven’t even booked their summer vacation yet.

The outlook for Minnesota travel is just as bright this summer. Minnesota lodging and camping property owners are optimistic, according to data gathered this past spring by Explore Minnesota Tourism. Owners expect occupancy levels and revenue to be up over last summer’s travel season—in fact positive responses to the survey outnumbered negative expectations by 3-to-1 for occupancy, and 3.5-to-1 for revenue, both slightly higher than expectations in 2013. An average of 38 percent of businesses expect higher occupancy this summer, while another 48 percent expect occupancy similar to last summer’s; 46 percent of respondents also expect an increase in revenue for the summer season.

The long winter showed up in the Explore Minnesota travel survey data as well. For the second consecutive year, a late arriving spring delayed the travel season, however this year’s weather did not impact business as much as it did a year ago. The late spring had a negative impact on tourism business for nearly half of respondents, impacting resort owners more than others, while a year ago 61 percent of respondents felt a business decline caused by poor weather.

National data aligns with the optimistic travel outlook. While Minnesota occupancy fell in April, revenues remained flat from 2013, according to data gathered by Smith Travel Research. Despite the late spring, all of Minnesota lodging metrics still maintained year-to-date growth for the first quarter. And the momentum looks to carry through into the summer. In May, occupancy at American hotels was up nearly 5 percent from May 2013.

Consumer spending is expected to rise this summer. According to the U.S. Travel Association’s March 2014 Travel Sentiment Index, a predictor of travel over the next six months, the level has never been higher since the metric’s inception in 2007. Part of the increase in expected summer travel in Minnesota could be attributed to Explore Minnesota’s new travel marketing campaign. Themed “Only in Minnesota,” the campaign included a new website, social media and marketing, and media buys in 14 states and provinces. It’s the largest marketing campaign in the state’s history, and it is arguably already having an effect.

So it is a good time to travel, but don’t wait too long to make your summer travel plans in Minnesota. During the upcoming Independence Day holiday, more than 41 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home, according to AAA Travel—a figure that has grown four out of the past five years. Airfares are 5 percent lower than a year ago, while car rental rates remain flat, according to the firm’s data. And despite economic uncertainty, customers are willing to acquire credit card debt for a well-deserved break, especially from the long winter we’ve endured.

“Based on industry results, I’m optimistic about the upcoming summer season,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism, in a press release. “Consumers are feeling good about the economy and spending once again this year, and Minnesota is an affordable destination and a close-to-home getaway for our target markets.”

Make your plans now, but expect to see some company along the way. Happy and safe summer travels!