Minnesotans will travel more next year, says John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota, the state's tourism agency.
"There's a pent-up demand," Edman said Thursday in an interview. "People are needing to get away, to relieve stress, discover things that are nearby."
With economic experts now saying the Great Recession ended June 2009, people will be ready to travel next spring and will see a new Minnsota Tourism theme: More to Explore in Minnesota.
"That positions Minnesota very well right now," said Edman, who was the keynote speaker to the Minnesota Hearthland Tourism Association annual meeting Thursday at the Bemidji Regional Event Center.
"People want to travel, they want to discover close to home," he said. "We have an awful lot here to promote in the state. ... There's more to explore in Minnesota than people realize."
People may not have the resources to hop on a plane and go halfway across the country, Edman said. They might want to discover what's close to home.
"The campaign we're developing right now, 'More to Explore,' is to encourage people that there is a lot more in this state than they ever realize," he said. "Yes, e do feel this is the right theme at the right time for a campaign to get people involved in traveling."
New television ads will be prepared, some with celebrities such as Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, Edman said.
About half Explore Minnesota's tourism promotion budget of $9 million will be spent on pointing out the opportunities within Minnesota to Minnesotans, he said. The other half will go to traditional marketing of Upper Midwest potential tourists to Minnesota, such as Chicago.
"We're doing more instate marketing than we've ever done before," he said. "Primarily because people aren't going as far as they used to be, and we need to get those dollars circulating in our economy."
Edman spoke to about 75 tourism promotion officials from the Heartland district, covering northwest and north-central Minnesota. He spoke on "Opportunities in the New Normal: Changing Trends and How it Impacts Minnesota Tourism."
"The key message is work together," Edman's word was to the association. "We are in a time when resources are limited and we can only do so much by ourselves. But if we work together, we can partner as regions, as we partner as communities, as we partner as CVBs (convention and visitors bureaus) we can do so much more to attract travelers and keep our industry strong than if we all just go back home and do our own thing."
There will be a new administration in January, and with that come fear, he said. But all governor candidates support tourism.
Explore Minnesota is about 29th in the nation for size of its budget, he said. Michigan has a $42 million tourism promotion budget while Wisconsin has $17 million.
"We're being outspent by most of our major competitors -- Missouri, Illinois and South Dakota," Edman said. "The way we can grow that is through more partnerships, private sector partners, public sector partners or alternative ways of funding ourselves."
There won't much revenue for tourism increases, he said. "We need to be considering holding the line, and finding alternative ways to fund ourselves."
Last year, non-government partnerships contributing $7 million in cash an in-kind services, he said.
Governors help with tourism promotion as well, such as through the Governor's Fishing Opener and Governor's Deer Hunting Opener.
"A lot of that depends a little bit on the governors' initiative," Edman said. "We'll be there ready to support them no matter what they do. They will all be supportive of Minnesota tourism and Minnesota outdoors. They just may want to put, no matter who it is, their own stamp on it."
The Bemidji Regional Event Center will be a huge asset to regional tourism, Edman said, who is already willing to help local officials score national conferences.
"I think this is fantastic," he said. "This is my first time in this facility and I was grinning from ear to ear when I look at what this facility has to offer, both meetings and sporting events, and thinks like that."
It's hard for communities to make the commitment to invest in tourism, Edman said. "Sometimes we think just what we have is fine but you need to make investments. We need to keep our industry strong, our competitors are doing it."
Otherwise, the meetings will go someplace else, he said.
"I am very, very pleased to see this facility and I'm eager to work with Bemidji with whatever I can to promote meetings," he said.
Minnesota is working a new program called "Meet in Minnesota" with convention and visitor bureaus across the state, he said, "to promote meetings nationally> We've done some things in Chicago, Milwaukee, Texas and Missouri. We're trying to continue that collective of whether you're looking for a meeting in Bemidji, or in Rochester, we have some great facilities in this state promote, and I'm eager to have Bemidji join us in that effort."