Bargain Hunters Shaped Minnesota Tourism Season

September 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

This summer, travelers chose vacations to fit the economic times, and Minnesota tourism businesses and attractions felt the impact, for better or worse, according to a news release from Explore Minnesota Tourism.

As consumers looked for affordable getaways, campgrounds filled up and festivals drew crowds. But many hotels and other accommodations saw fewer guests this summer.

In an end-of-the-summer survey taken by Explore Minnesota Tourism, the state’s tourism promotion office, half of more than 300 reporting accommodations noted that both occupancy and revenue were down this summer. On the other hand, one out of four reported that business was up. The mixed picture reflects that while some businesses struggled, others benefited from this summer’s travel trends.

“Minnesota still hosted plenty of travelers this summer, but the way they are traveling has really changed,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism. “People are traveling closer to home and looking for good values, often waiting until the last minute to book their trip. Typically, they are taking shorter trips and spending less while they travel. But people are still taking trips and finding ways to have fun on a budget.”

Overall, travelers looked for bargains, and businesses that did well said they offered affordable rates, special deals, or packages that included activities, free breakfasts or other extras. Campgrounds fared especially well, with close to half reporting an increase in revenues. Fishing, hiking, festivals, amateur sporting events and other low-cost activities were popular this summer, and state parks saw an increase in visitors.

Many resorts reported that their traditional housekeeping cabins, where guests can cook their own meals, remained popular this summer, and that they draw loyal, return customers who often book for the next year during their stay. On the other hand, large resorts saw a downturn in bookings by corporate groups and conferences. Occupancy and revenue were down at the majority of hotels, especially in the Twin Cities area; hotels, in particular, are suffering from a decline in business travel and convention attendance.

In spite of the toll the recession has taken on the travel industry, just over half (52%) of the accommodation businesses responding to the recent Explore Minnesota Tourism survey reported “stable, but positive” financial health, and another 14% indicated that their financial health was “growing.” Overall, businesses expect the summer’s travel trends to continue into the fall.

Tourism is an $11 billion industry in Minnesota, a key sector of the state’s economy. The leisure and hospitality industry, a major provider of tourism services, employs more than 248,000 Minnesotans.

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