During the COVID-19 crisis, Explore Minnesota is staying in touch with Minnesota’s tourism industry with periodic surveys. Reports of results from these surveys include suggestions by respondents about how Explore Minnesota can support the industry, as well as summaries of business impacts reported by respondents:
International Visitors to Minnesota
International Travel Spending in Minnesota
Release Date: October 19, 2020
Metrics include data for the most current available month, and year-to-date data through that month.
Updated on 10/19/20 with data through September 2020.
To comply with STR's conditions for re-publishing this data, EMT will replace the posted data with data for the subsequent month, when it is provided to EMT. This will typically take place approximately 18 to 20 days after the end of the month in question. At that time, only data for the new current month will be available. Lodging performance data for previous months and years can be purchased from STR.
Republication or other re-use of this data without the express written permission of STR is strictly prohibited.
- Overview: Results from a recent Explore Minnesota survey of Minnesota lodging and camping properties revealed a downturn in business activity during the COVID-influenced 2020 summer season, marking an end to a long string of strong summer travel seasons in Minnesota. However, the results were mixed, revealing a divide between resorts and campgrounds faring much better than hotels and motels, and greater Minnesota reporting stronger summer tourism business than the metro region. Results and responses to open-ended questions on the informal survey also provided insights into the challenges tourism businesses are facing while operating during a pandemic.
The survey also provided an assessment of business expectations for the upcoming fall season that mirrored summer experiences, with a similar downturn overall and a continued divide by accommodation type and geography. Responses of positive financial health slightly outnumbered negative financial health among Minnesota accommodations, but represented a sharp downturn in this metric compared with comparable results from recent years. Many respondents anticipate a long road to recovery, including 33% who don't think their business activity will return to pre-COVID levels until the second half of 2021, and 21% who don't anticipate business returning to pre-COVID levels until at least 2022, if ever.
- Summer 2020 (June through August) Demand and Revenue: Survey results indicated lower demand and revenue for summer 2020 compared with summer 2019. (Note: For this and other survey questions about year-over-year changes, only the direction but not the degree of change was ascertained.) For demand, a weighted average 31% of respondents reported that summer 2020 demand was up, 11% reported that it was the same and 58% reported that it was down compared with summer 2019. For revenue, a weighted average 29% of respondents reported that summer 2020 revenue was up, while 11% reported that it was the same and 61% reported that it was down from 2019. (Note: Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding. Also, see the "rebalancing by accommodation type" section below for an explanation of weighted averages.) These results portray the weakest summer for Minnesota travel in recent years. They also represent a break from a run of strong Minnesota summer travel business growth that extends back to the beginning of the industry's recovery from the Great Recession in 2010. These trends are consistent with national trends over the same period.
The 2020 questionnaire asked respondents whose business activity was down to indicate the extent to which their activity was down. Results reflected sharp business declines for many businesses, for both demand and revenue. Twenty-one percent of respondents reported that their summer revenue was down more than 50%, with another 21% reporting that revenue was down between 26% and 50%, and 19% reporting that revenue was down between 1% and 25% compared with summer 2019. Results for 2020 summer demand declines were similar.
Summer business activity results varied widely by accommodation type and by geography. Resorts and campgrounds fared much better than hotels and motels, and greater Minnesota fared much better than the metro region. These findings are consistent with results from other research reported by Explore Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a mid-July Explore Minnesota survey of Minnesota destination marketing organizations. Resorts and campgrounds have been a good fit for consumers looking for getaways that provide opportunities to manage their risk of exposure to COVID-19, with greater confidence that they can easily maintain social distancing while enjoying outdoor experiences. By contrast, hotels and motels have suffered the most of any lodging sector, due in part to a severe downturn in meeting, convention and event business during the pandemic. The metro region, where many of the state's large group activities typically occur, suffered the greatest declines in summer 2020 business. Civil unrest in the metro has also posed safety concerns for some would-be visitors to the region. Within the metro, STR lodging reports have shown Minneapolis to have the state's sharpest declines in lodging performance in recent months.
State parks were not included in Explore Minnesota's survey, since park use data is available separately from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). State parks experienced a strong summer of overnight use consistent with survey results for private sector campgrounds noted above. The summer occupancy rate of Minnesota state park campsites and indoor units jumped 17% during the June 1 through August 15 period this year, compared with the same period of 2019. This summer's 63% occupancy rate was based on lower numbers of available and occupied nights, a result of COVID-related delays in the opening of many state park campgrounds and lodging/cabins. The DNR reported just under 172,000 occupied state park campsites and indoor units between June 1 and August 15, 2020.
- Guest Origin and Progression of Business Activity over the Course of the Summer: Anticipating shifts in summer 2020 experiences of Minnesota's lodging and camping properties, two new survey questions were added to this year's survey to address visitor origin and the progression of activity over the course of the summer. Consistent with close to home travel trends during the pandemic, nearly half (47%) of respondents reported that Minnesotans made up a bigger share of their summer guests, compared with other recent summers. Still, 30% of respondents reported that their guest origins were similar to other recent summers. Consistent with the loosening of travel restrictions early in the summer, the biggest share of respondents (40%) reported that business activity picked up strength more than usual during the summer. However, another 30% reported that business activity dropped off more than usual over the course of the summer, perhaps related to renewed travel concerns after a mid-summer resurgence of confirmed COVID cases in Minnesota and elsewhere.
- Expectations for Fall (September and October 2020): Respondents' outlook for fall 2020 business levels was quite similar to their reported summer activity levels. Weighted average expectations for fall 2020 demand compared with fall 2019 demand were as follows: up 24%; same 20%; and down 56%. Weighted average expectations results for fall 2020 revenue compared with fall 2019 revenue were: up 22%; same 20%; and down 59%. Fall expectations by accommodation type and region showed similar patterns to summer business levels, with resorts, campgrounds and greater Minnesota having the most positive expectations and hotel/motels and the metro region showing the most negative expectations.
- Financial Health and Anticipated Return to Pre-COVID Business Levels: Despite recent business hardships, more than half (51% weighted average) of respondents rated their business's current financial health as positive, including 18% responding "growing" and 35% responding "stable, but positive." The 51% result was considerably lower than the summer 2019 positive financial health result (80%). Forty-five percent of respondents rated their financial health as negative, including 27% "stable, but negative" and 18% "declining." Three percent of respondents did not know how to rate their current financial health. The 45% negative result was up from 18% a year ago. Consistent with other results, resort, campground and greater Minnesota financial health results were substantially more positive, and hotel/motel and metro results were substantially more negative than overall results.
Nearly one third of respondents stated that business activity has already surpassed or has returned to pre-COVID levels (31%). However, 33% of respondents don't think their business activity will return to pre-COVID levels until the second half of 2021, and another 21% don't anticipate business returning to pre-COVID levels until at least 2022, if ever. Resort and campground respondents and respondents from greater Minnesota were more likely to have already returned to pre-COVID levels, while hotel/motel respondents and respondents from the metro were more likely to respond that they anticipated a later return to pre-COVID activity levels.
- Themes in Comments: Open-ended questions asked respondents why they did not open for business this summer, what their biggest challenges have been since the onset of CCOVID-19, and for ideas about how Explore Minnesota can best support Minnesota's tourism industry right now and in the near future. Among the small number of respondents who were not open for business at all during the summer, reasons for not opening reflected concerns about the economic viability of operating during COVID, along with concerns about the health and safety of business operators and their guests alike.
An overarching theme among responses to open-ended questions was the amount of extra effort required to navigate business operations during a pandemic. Many respondents commented on the challenges involved in keeping up with continuously changing rules and regulations. Additional burdens noted in responses included endless cleaning and sanitizing protocols, extra laundry, continuous demands of guests and potential guests to reassure them of their safety and provide other information, dealing with much higher than normal numbers of cancellations, and special challenges to meet staffing needs at a time when many potential employees were either reluctant to work for safety concerns or had less incentive to (return to) work if they were receiving generous unemployment benefits. A number of respondents commented on the level of physical and emotional exhaustion they were experiencing, with a few noting how hard it has been to not be able to have the level of personal connection with their guests that they are accustomed to. Even for respondents whose properties have been thriving, i.e., mostly resort and campground operators, the amount of work required during COVID has been exhausting. Some comments noted how quickly cancellations could be filled, sometimes by the next caller shortly after hanging up from the cancellation call.
Suggestions for how Explore Minnesota can support the tourism industry included numerous notes of encouragement to continue providing education and guidance to direct the industry through applicable government programs, or emphasized the need for Explore Minnesota and others to reinforce the notion that Minnesota is open for travel, and that tourism businesses are taking safety and health concerns very seriously. Some comments urged Explore Minnesota to advocate for changes in policies like Canadian border crossing restrictions or police and safety issues, actions Explore Minnesota is generally unable to perform because of lobbying and advocacy limitations of state agencies. Interestingly, comments about the prolonged Canadian border closure included a greater number of respondents who reported benefitting from business of U.S. residents unable to go to Canada, compared with comments by respondents with complaints of being hurt by the closed border.
- Survey Invitation Lists, and Response Rates: Explore Minnesota conducted an informal online survey in late August 2020, soliciting responses by email from 1,573 accommodations (indoor lodging properties and campgrounds) throughout Minnesota that have provided Explore Minnesota with an email address. A total of 307 responses were received for a 19.5% response rate. All but 11 respondents qualified to take the survey based on their response to a question confirming that they were open during at least a portion of the summer 2020 season. Among respondents whose properties were only open during a portion of the summer, the majority were open at least 75% of the summer. Of the 296 qualified respondents, 280 (95%) progressed through the core questions of the online questionnaire. Results reported here reflect self-reported data from all respondents.
- Responses by Accommodation Type: The distribution of survey responses by type of accommodation over-represented resorts (37% of responses, compared with resorts representing 36% of the distribution of accommodations). The distribution of survey responses also over-represented B&B/historic inns (8% of responses, 7% of distribution) and "other" accommodations including vacation home rentals and vacation properties (10% of responses, 6% of distribution). The distribution of survey responses under-represented hotels/motels (35% of responses, 36% of distribution) and campgrounds (11% of responses, 15% of distribution).
- Rebalancing by Accommodation Type: Results for most survey questions were rebalanced to minimize the distortion caused by substantial over- or under-representation of respondents in some accommodation types. Weighted average results reflect Minnesota's distribution of properties by accommodation type (found above under "responses by accommodation type").
- Responses by Region: Two of Minnesota's five tourism regions were over-represented by survey respondents – northeast, with 27% of responses compared with 23% of Minnesota's total distribution of accommodations; and central, with 26% of responses compared with 22% of distribution. Eighteen percent of respondents were from the northwest region, the same portion as the region represents in the total distribution of accommodations. Two regions were under-represented – the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro region, with 12% of responses compared with 18% of distribution; and southern, with 17% of responses compared with 19% of distribution.
- Summary statistics for the survey can be viewed online at Results for Survey Questions.
Previous Seasonal Industry Survey Reports
This article and graphs are provided under permission granted by STR, the source of the data.
Minnesota's first half 2020 lodging performance metrics revealed deep COVID-related impacts on Minnesota's lodging properties. Impacts included double-digit declines in five of Minnesota's six lodging metrics. Continuing a trend reported for the first quarter of 2020, COVID impacts on metro area lodging have been more substantial, compared with impacts on greater Minnesota lodging. Following the steepest declines in April, incremental improvements in lodging performance in May and June provide hope for continued improvements. Two sets of graphs, with links below, show changes in Minnesota's lodging metrics for the first half of 2020 and monthly for the last 12 months.
First Half 2020 Lodging Performance Changes for Minnesota, the U.S., the Region and Minnesota Areas – Five of Minnesota's six lodging metrics saw substantial declines during the first half of 2020. Second half changes included declines in occupancy (-41.0%), average daily room rates (-17.6%), revenue per available room (i.e., RevPAR, -51.4%), revenue (-50.8%) and demand (-40.3%). Room supply is the only lodging metric that displayed positive statewide growth (1.1%) during the first half of 2020. Room supply growth was concentrated in the metro area, despite an 8.4% decrease in Minneapolis room supply. Rochester and the St. Cloud/I-94 corridor also experienced first half 2020 room supply growth.
With the exception of room supply growth, the U.S. and the seven-state West North Central U.S. region experienced stronger first half 2020 lodging performance than Minnesota for the remaining five metrics. In other words, the U.S. and region experienced smaller declines in those five metrics, compared with Minnesota. Greater Minnesota's first half declines were smaller than metro area declines for all lodging metrics except supply. Among Minnesota's 11 distinct market areas (i.e., five in the metro and six in greater Minnesota), all five metro areas experienced bigger declines than each of the six greater Minnesota areas for the three revenue-related metrics – room rates, revenue and revenue per available room (i.e., RevPAR). Through the first half of the year, STR metrics show that the pandemic has impacted Minneapolis the most of any area, and the two broad areas of greater Minnesota (i.e., the Minnesota north and Minnesota south areas) the least.
Year-over-year first half changes in Minnesota lodging metrics (i.e., 2020 compared with 2019) and 2019 compared with 2018 (in parentheses) were:
Month-by-Month Lodging Performance for Minnesota – First half COVID-related declines dominate graphs of change in Minnesota's monthly lodging metrics over the past 12 months. A moderate downturn in most metrics in February was followed by big declines in March. Then, in April, the bottom fell out with the biggest monthly declines on record for most metrics in April. The modest 2.8% April room supply decline was the exception. Year-over-year monthly losses moderated for each metric in May, and then again in June. Minnesota's strong room supply growth continues to negatively impact other metrics. Unlike most other states, Minnesota continues to experience a net increase in available rooms, leaving more properties to compete for the business of a much smaller pool of hotel guests during the pandemic. Minnesota was one of only 10 states that experienced positive first half 2020 room supply growth, tied for the highest growth rate at 1.1%.
Click below for accompanying graphs of Minnesota lodging performance (repeats of links from above):
Detailed monthly and year-to-date lodging metrics for Minnesota can be viewed online at Current STR Lodging Metrics for Minnesota. (Note: The most current available monthly lodging metrics are replaced by data for the subsequent month when they are provided by STR.)
Previous Quarterly Lodging Performance Reports
Release Date: June 15, 2020
Minnesota Resorts Saw Healthy Sales Growth in 2018
Sales and state sales tax at Minnesota resorts grew for a ninth consecutive year in 2018. Statewide 4.4% sales and state sales tax growth were accompanied by the smallest decline in the number of resorts (i.e., 10) since 2014. In our current, challenging business environment, this just-released 2018 data from the Minnesota Department of Revenue serves as a bittersweet reminder of better times, a short while ago.
According to the report, statewide gross sales increased 4.4% to $319.9 million in 2018 and state sales tax increased 4.4% to $19.5 million. These changes continued a trend of annual growth in statewide resort sales and state sales tax that started in 2010. The number of Minnesota resorts reported for 2018 (i.e., 706) represented a decrease of 10 resorts (-1.4%), following more substantial declines of 24 resorts (-3.2%) in 2017 and 28 resorts (-3.6%) in 2016. The 2018 resort losses occurred in Minnesota’s central and northwest regions. Between 2004 and 2018, gross sales at Minnesota resorts increased 40.4% while the number of resorts decreased 28.2%.
The following three graphs show a timeline of gross sales, state sales tax and number of Minnesota resorts from 2004 through 2018, including regional and statewide totals. Resort data in the graphs is available in a series of annual reports, including county detail down to the county level, accessible via links found immediately below the graphs. The graphs depict growth through 2007, followed by recession-related declines in 2008 and 2009 before a return to growth in 2010. Four regions through 2006 were replaced by five regions starting in 2007, after reconfiguration of tourism regions. Since then, resort activity has been similar for each of the three northern regions (i.e., northwest, central and northeast regions), as evidenced by the close proximity of their lines on the graphs.
Total sales activity at the relatively few metro and southern region resorts has been considerably lower than for northern regions, as evidenced by the overlapping metro and southern region lines at the bottom of the graphs through 2010. Starting in 2011, the small amount of remaining metro resort activity was distributed equitably among the other regions in order to avoid disclosing specific information about them, when the number of metro resorts dropped below four that year. The scale of southern regional activity makes it is hard to see on the graphs that the southern region experienced significant growth in gross sales (86%) and state sales tax (74%) in 2018, following substantial declines in 2017. The southern region’s relatively small number of resorts leaves it more susceptible to swings like this, compared with the northern regions.
Complete annual sales tax statistics for Minnesota resorts, by region and county, beginning with 2004. Two additional reports cover 1985 through 2000, one providing the number of resorts and the other providing gross sales at resorts for most of the years during this period. (Note: The Minnesota Department of Revenue did not provide resort reports for all of these years.)
2017 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2016 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2015 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2014 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2013 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2012 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2011 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2010 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2009 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2008 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2007 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2006 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2005 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
2004 Resort Sales & Use Tax Statistics
1985 - 2000 Number of Minnesota Resorts, by County
1985 - 2000 Gross Sales at Minnesota Resorts, by County
Release Date: Jul 2, 2020
Minnesota 2019 Tourism Advertising ROI/Economic Impact – SMARInsights providing estimates of the volume and value of travel influenced by Explore MinnesotaTourism (EMT) spring/summer 2019 paid marketing efforts and measuring the effectiveness of Minnesota's 2019 spring/summer advertising campaign and to provide insight into the aspects of the campaign that were successful, as well as identifying opportunities for refinement.
Minnesota 2019 Tourism Advertising Creative Evaluation + Niche Analysis providing estimates of the volume and value of travel influenced by paid advertising.
Release Date: March 13, 2020
Complete annual sales tax statistics reports for Minnesota's Leisure and Hospitality Industry, beginning with 2004. Includes Accommodations; Food Services and Drinking Places; and Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation Industries, with a separate table in each annual report for each tourism region and county. The contents page (first page) serves as a guide to the geographic area(s) of interest to you.
2017 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2016 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2015 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2014 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2013 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2012 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2011 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2010 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2009 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2008 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2007 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2006 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2005 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
2004 Leisure and Hospitality Sales Tax Statistics
Annual Minnesota Accommodations and Attractions Database Comparisons, beginning with 2002. Some lodging categories have changed over the years. Attractions were added in 2010, and appear as the last page of the report.
View the report here.
Release Date: Jan 14, 2019
This report provides annual counts of international arrivals at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, based on their country of origin and world region. It is solely based on passenger itineraries and does not designate passenger nationality.
New starting with the 2017 report, passenger volume is broken down into the following categories:
o Origin (more likely to be visitors to the U.S.)
o Destination (more likely to be U.S. residents)
o Other (insufficient information to categorize as origin or destination).
While statistics reflect itinerary origins, they provide no indication of passenger nationality or residency. Also, U.S. residents returning from international travels are not differentiated from residents of other countries arriving for a visit to the United States.
As an example, a passenger may have started in South Africa, flew to India, then France and on to MSP. Previous to 2017, reports provided no indication about whether the passenger was more likely to be an international visitor to the U.S. versus a U.S. resident returning from South Africa. However, starting in 2017, origin versus destination categorization provides that indication, as long as the point of origin was discernible from a single (i.e., round trip) itinerary.
These statewide and regional lists include attractions for which attendance was monitored and reported to Explore Minnesota. Attractions on the lists are ranked by attendance and feature things to see or do that are entertaining, recreational or educational in nature, and cater to tourists. Additional information about the lists is provided in notes at the bottom of each list.
Release Date: September 17, 2018