Every dollar invested in state tourism marketing returns an estimated $8 in state and local taxes, $22 in income, and $84 in spending by travelers. Simply put, any investment in spreading the word about the wonderful attractions to be found in our state pays dividends no matter how you calculate—which is why one of the key messages to come out of the recent Explore Minnesota tourism conference is the push to increase funding for the state’s tourism marketing arm, Explore Minnesota.
A funding increase for the state tourism department is long overdue, according to those who work in the industry. When simple investments in tourism marketing results in sales in virtually every county of Minnesota, state officials argue it’s important to invest—not only for the tourism industry itself but for the state as well. Tourism in Minnesota is now a $12 billion dollar industry, generating nearly $769 million in state sales tax revenues, which by the way is 17 percent of Minnesota’s entire sales tax revenues. Yet when in comes to investments in tourism marketing, we are being outspent by other states. Explore Minnesota’s $8.7 million budget is nearly the same as it was in 1990; it currently ranks 30th in the country. Michigan, Illinois, Montana, Wisconsin and South Dakota all outspend Minnesota in tourism marketing, which is why a group of tourism leaders has formed a group, the Minnesota Tourism Growth Coalition, to lobby the Legislature for more funding. Only time will tell.
The message coming out of the conference wasn’t at all dire, despite the urgency for increased funding. Tourism is on the rise. Mayor R.T. Rybak addressed the conference by pointing to many of the investments that will make the Twin Cities region, in particular, an even more important destination in the years to come. Among the investments are Target Field, which will soon host Major League Baseball’s All Star Game, placing Minneapolis, and Minnesota, front and center to a national audience. Other investments in infrastructure will also keep visitors coming back, Rybak said, including the new Minnesota Vikings stadium (which he hopes will one day host a Super Bowl) as wells as the Central Corridor light rail linking Minneapolis and St. Paul.
One of my favorite parts of the annual tourism conference is being able to get an early peak at the new commercials that Explore Minnesota has planned for the coming year. I love this year’s ads. Don’t get me wrong; I liked the recent television spots. If you remember the past couple of years, the ads have featured a cute jingle (that even included a slightly off key Joe Mauer) that asked if you “heard the news,” etc. The 2013 ads are much simpler. They play off the “more to” theme, but only in words on the screen. No singing, no song. Just the sounds of nature and the city, with video shot across the state that sells the region for what it is. One has just been posted on YouTube. Take a look.