On Tuesday, Explore Minnesota, the state's tourism promotion office, kicked off its annual statewide conference on tourism. The conference was conducted virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Tim Walz and Explore Minnesota Director John Edman addressed more than 648 Minnesota tourism leaders from around the state about COVID-19's devastating impact on the industry and optimism for late 2021. According to Tourism Economics, the pandemic-related travel downturn has cost the state roughly $7.1 billion in travel spending losses.
During the conference, the state's tourism promotion office shared highlights from its annual tourism industry report, including key economic indicators from 2019 and initial findings from 2020 that affirm the profound impact the pandemic has had on the state's tourism economy. This is a critical sector of Minnesota's overall economy. Preliminary estimates show that leisure and hospitality employment decreased by 73,000 (-27%), to 202,000 jobs in 2020. Hotel and lodging occupancy declined 41% statewide, with the Twin Cities metro area feeling a more significant impact.
'The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on Minnesota's tourism industry, but our tourism businesses are resilient and have found ways to help visitors enjoy the beauty of our state safely, providing much-needed respite and relaxation during this challenging year,' Walz said. 'As our state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, I look forward to continued partnership with Minnesota's tourism industry to ensure we come out of this pandemic stronger than ever.'
Monday marked the first day of Explore Minnesota's session, with the conference continuing through Friday morning.
'The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Minnesota's travel and tourism industry for years to come. Despite these challenges, our industry has persevered, showing what travel means to all of us,' Edman said. 'I'm pleased to see so much interest and enthusiasm around this conference learning opportunity as we consider the path to tourism recovery for our communities, businesses and state's economy.'
For more details on the conference, click here.