Business leaders, workers, and government officials are joining together to tout the significant economic impact of travel in Itasca County as part of the 31st annual National Travel and Tourism Week. The event amplifies the U.S. Travel Association’s multi-year campaign – Travel Effect – to prove the huge impact that travel and tourism has on lives, businesses, county and national economies.
In 2013, tourism brought $65,559,174 in gross sales to Itasca County alone, according to Explore Minnesota’s economic impact studies. Beyond gross sales, travel and tourism brought in $4,320,962 in sales tax and 1,482 additional jobs to the county.
Across Minnesota, travel employs a diverse workforce, from airline and hotel employees, to restaurant, attraction, and retail workers, as well as supports employees in other industry sectors such as construction, manufacturing, and finance. There are a large number of entities involved in making communities attractive to visitors, including local businesses, lodging and area attractions, local governments, destination marketing organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, the Itasca Area Community Marketing Taskforce, and more.
Local chambers operate in unique ways and provide a variety of programs to help boost the economy and attract visitors to the area. Chambers of commerce in Itasca County are the Deer River Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Nashwauk Chamber of Commerce.
“The Grand Rapids Area Chamber’s mission is advocacy for business… making sure that we have adequate infrastructure to support tourism,” said Bud Stone, President of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. “The infrastructure referenced includes roads and bridges, trails, reliable/affordable power supplies, clean water, well-managed forests, well-thought-out city plans, attractions and businesses that are fun to shop in.”
Local destination marketing and lodging associations work to showcase all that Itasca County has to offer.
“Tourism has a huge economic impact on the Grand Rapids and Itasca County area. We are proud to be the destination marketing organization that advertises outside of the Grand Rapids area to ‘lure’ people here,” said Megan Christianson, director of Visit Grand Rapids.
Visit Grand Rapids is a destination marketing organization whose mission is to generate a positive economic impact through travel and tourism in the Grand Rapids and Itasca County areas.
The Edge of the Wilderness Lodging Association (EOWLA) consists of 12 northern Minnesota resorts, motels, and campgrounds that represent other regions of the county.
“The Edge of the Wilderness Lodging Association is currently implementing several digital and print advertising campaigns to attract visitors to their region,” said Tim Johnson, Edge of the Wilderness community coordinator. “In the past, and currently, the EOWLA has been extremely successful in using the local lodging tax to leverage and obtain numerous grants to increase funding for marketing in the area.”
Rather than taking their vacation business elsewhere, local residents can make a positive contribution to the local travel effect.
“Itasca County offers a unique opportunity to tour, explore, and vacation right here in our own home,” said Summer Scharringhausen, community coordinator for the Itasca Area Community Marketing Taskforce (IACMT). “There’s no need to travel a great distance; we can find interesting and exciting sights and activities right here in our community. The community portal is a one-stop location for finding information about area events, arts and culture, trails, parks, lakes, and lodging.”
The IACMT mission is to bring together major partners to provide effective and efficient communication and marketing for Itasca County residents, new residents and visitors. It is funded through Itasca County, the City of Grand Rapids, Visit Grand Rapids, the Downtown Business Association, and the Blandin Foundation. One of the many projects that IACMT manages is the Itasca Area Community Portal at www.MinnesotasNature.com.
Some say travel not only supports the economy, but also promotes physical and physiological health and improves workplace productivity.
“It is now empirical, rather than just anecdotal, that travel is a key driver for improving individual health and strengthening our businesses and economy,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Travel holds measurable benefits for our minds, bodies, relationships, businesses and economy. Travel should be celebrated every day.”
Complete reports and data related to the Travel Effect, including “The Day Off Dividend,” bottom-line impact of business travel and the impact of government meetings on public- and private-sector development, are available at www.traveleffect.com.