Minnesota tourism: Crisis. Or not?

Here’s a question with a bunch of different answers: Is Minnesota tourism suffering or holding its own in this recession?

We’ve seen a spate of local tourism-down stories and opinion pieces lately, most tied to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s push for the Travel Promotion Act, intended to raise money from parts of the U.S. travel industry and foreign travelers. The money would go to lure international tourists.

But how bad is the tourism industry in Minnesota? Maybe not as bad as you think.

Looking at jobs data, the state’s hospitality and tourism business is doing relatively well, losing about 4,900 jobs from May of this year to last, a 1.9 percent decrease, one of the smallest drops of any Minnesota economic sector.

State data also show the industry added 7,100 jobs in May as summer tourism cranked up. Much of the boost came in bar and restaurant jobs, according to the state Labor Department.

While a pre-summer survey by Explore Minnesota found nearly half of lodging businesses (from resorts to campgrounds) expecting a tougher summer than in 2008, only 16 percent described their business as “declining.”

Back in April, Steve Piragis, an Ely outfitter and a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network told us:

In a poor economy Ely and the Boundary Waters Wilderness seem to be popular vacation choices. Reservations for canoe trips and spending on wilderness related gear is up this year once again. Is it because the canoe trip is a relatively inexpensive vacation choice or is it the back to nature experience that people crave in troubled times?

For whatever reason it appears that the northwoods will have a very good summer economy once again reflecting what has happened in other recessions.

I’m planning to check in with him later this month to see if business met his expectations.

UPDATE: Steve this afternoon tells us: “So far so good up here at our business. I hear some reports of early season blues from resorters but we are ahead of last year by a couple teenies. Even a little up is far better than behind. I’ll give you an update as we hit mid season at the end of July. By then the total picture will be clear. “

There’s no doubt that the worst recession in more than 25 years is dampening Minnesota tourism. But the tourism business also seems like its doing a lot better these days than many other part of Minnesota’s economy.

Below are some recent responses from Minnesotans telling us what they’re spending or not spending on these days. You can help by telling us how the economy’s doing in your part of Minnesota this summer.

Comments are closed.