There's More to Explore

Early next month, leaders from Minnesota’s hospitality industry will convene in downtown Minneapolis to talk about the latest trends in our state’s tourism industry. This year the Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference, which will take place at the Hilton Minneapolis Hotel February 12-13, will have a strong focus on digital marketing, giving many attendees tips about how to spread the word about what Minnesota has to offer to travelers across the world.

On Wednesday, Governor Mark Dayton will address the conference, and he is expected to speak about why it is important, from an economic perspective, to support our state’s tourism industry. The numbers do tell the tale. From 2000 to 2010, sales in leisure and hospitality businesses grew 40 percent, surpassing $11 billion in gross sales, according to data gathered by Explore Minnesota; that’s more than $31 million a day. Travel and tourism creates jobs in every Minnesota county, and its contribution to the gross state product is on par with agriculture, which to me is a bit surprising. But there seems to be room for improvement, which is why the governor is expected to call for more statewide spending on promoting our state to tourists.

In terms of tax receipts generated by travel spending, Minnesota ranks ninth compared to other states. Nevertheless, its state tourism office budget ranks 30th. According to initial reports, Governor Dayton would like that to increase, a lot. According to tourism officials, every dollar that is invested in state tourism marketing generates $4.60 in state and local taxes, $20.40 in wages, and $53 in gross sales. That’s why the governor would like to increase Explore Minnesota’s budget from $8.7 million per fiscal year to nearly $16 million for each of the next two fiscal years beginning in 2014, an increase of nearly 86 percent. The additional funding, to come from an increase in car rental taxes from 6.2 percent to just over 9 percent, would be used to greatly increase marketing, that would in turn increase spending and add jobs to our state.

As with any proposal, there is a long way to go before ideas and initiatives are actually turned into law. But for anyone who loves tourism, and who appreciates the economic impact it has on our state, the governor’s proposals sound like money well spent.

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