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State officials seek millions to help state tourism industry market Minnesota getaways

Split Rock Lighthouse near Silver Bay in is a popular Minnesota tourist destination. A House bill aimed at helping boost tourism in the state is seeking $10 million to fund a “Tourism Industry Recovery Grant Program.” (House Photography file photo)

Now that COVID-driven staycations have become a relic and travel is rebounding, it’s time to help Minnesota tourism bounce back too.

That’s the impetus for HF232 to fund a “Tourism Industry Recovery Grant Program” with a one-time $10 million appropriation in fiscal year 2024.

“Jump-starting tourism is really critical,” said Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), the bill sponsor.

He said more tourists coming to the state has a significant economic effect and especially helps businesses that suffered a lot during the pandemic such as hotels, restaurants, music venues, and convention businesses and trade shows.

House Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee 1/25/23

Explore Minnesota Tourism would administer the $10 million and make grants available to organizations, tribal governments, and communities “to support meetings, conventions and group business, multicommunity and high-visibility events, and tourism marketing.”

The House Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee laid over the bill Wednesday for future consideration.

The bill would also provide $430,000 combined in fiscal years 2024-25 to Explore Minnesota Tourism to boost its marketing efforts; and $250,000 in fiscal year 2024 to the Grand Portage Band for local tourism efforts.

Visitors to the Grand Portage area, in the extreme northeast tip of the state’s Arrowhead region, declined sharply when Canada closed its border during the pandemic, Hansen said.

“We believe that tourism is a statewide force for economic growth,” said Lauren McGinty, executive director of Explore Minnesota Tourism.

The average return on investment is $18 on every dollar the agency spends on marketing, she said, and is as high as $35 for niche marketing, such as promoting specific events or recreational activities.

“Ultimately our efforts support small businesses, bring new money into the state, and increase revenue from sales tax,” she said. “Without Explore Minnesota, each household in Minnesota would pay an additional $625 a year in taxes.”

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