After MN tourism revenue is cut in half in 2020, experts expect busy summer

Tourist hots spots in Minnesota are expecting a big summer after 2020 struggles. (FOX 9)

According to Explore Minnesota, the state entity that tracks tourism, revenue from tourism went from $16 billion in 2019 to just over $8 billion in 2020 but experts expect a big comeback in the local travel business this summer.

"We’re back up to numbers ahead of 2019," General Manager of Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake near Brainerd, Eric Peterson said.

He says last year they lost 35 to 40 percent of their business that usually comes in the form of corporate or large group events. However, their individual family business increased as families were looking for travel options close to home and socially distanced.

"Last year we saw families traveling amongst themselves this year we see the groups of people coming back as well," Peterson said.

This Memorial Day weekend they expect to host around 1,100 guests and are on pace to have a record number of bookings for July and August.

"The rest of the summer looks really good," Peterson said.

Business in "cabin" or "tourist" towns like Brainerd has a ripple effect. When the resorts are busy, that typically means restaurants like Ernie’s on Gull Lake see an increase in revenue as well.

"Summer is the most important thing for the Brainerd lakes area," co-owner of Ernie’s, Mike Foy, said.

Foy says, like at Craigan’s, they stayed active last year with travelers wanting to get outside. When indoor dining was not allowed, they expanded their patio space. He says, already this year, they’re seeing many people visit, looking for a place to be outside.

"We’re just really excited to see really truly what a full summer is again," Foy said.

Explore Minnesota, Hospitality Minnesota and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis conducted a survey recently on the 2021 summer tourism outlook. That survey showed nearly three-quarters of respondents expect higher business volume this summer.

"It’s a huge boom for rural areas when tourism does well," President and CEO of the Center for Rural Policy and Development, Julie Tesch said.

Tesch explains, tourism revenue in greater Minnesota communities creates jobs and increases the tax base, creating money for things like schools, roads and affordable housing.

"If we didn’t have tourism in greater Minnesota our economy would just simply come to a halt," Tesch said.

Tesch and many others are hoping early indications are correct, and this summer is a booming business for rural and cabin communities.

For more information on Minnesota’s tourism industry revenue click here.