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Minnesota tourism: 5th straight year of summer-season growth

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Early summer rains and flooding did not put a damper on Minnesota's overall tourism income this season, the state's travel promotion office says.

Minnesota's $12.5 billion tourism industry enjoyed the state's fifth summer of growth in a row, according to Explore Minnesota.

The group conducted an end-of-summer survey of tourism-related businesses and found higher occupancy and revenue for the majority of Minnesota lodging properties.

The group says 222 Minnesota businesses, including hotels and motels, resorts, B&Bs, campgrounds and vacation home rentals, responded to the survey. Thirty-six percent said their businesses were growing, and 43 percent said their businesses were stable but positive.

Tourism businesses are drawing people from both inside and outside the state, John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism, said.

"Minnesota continues to be an affordable, close-to-home getaway for our core target markets, and is becoming a more attractive destination for travelers from further away," Edman said.

What's more – the fall outlook looks pretty good, too. Thirty-two percent of the businesses expect higher occupancy and 40 percent expect higher revenue than fall 2013. Only 20 percent and 23 percent, respectively, predicted occupancy and revenue will be down.

That's all good news, especially given the gloomy-skies business forecasts from earlier in the summer, when June rains swamped some businesses, including a number of resorts and campgrounds. Still, 73 percent of respondents said they were not impacted by water levels.

Minnesota's tourism industry employs more than 271,000 workers, who are about 10 percent of the state's private sector employment, according to state statistics. The industry has had about 1.7 percent job growth in the last year, the state says.

Leisure and hospitality businesses generate about 17 percent of the state's sales tax revenues.

Earlier this spring, Explore Minnesota launched a new ad campaign, its biggest tourism initiative, which included TV commercials in 12 states, including six that are new territory: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.

One of the ads:

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