Pioneer Editorial: Tourism a boost to economy
The Minnesota walleye fishing opener signals the start of the summer tourist season for Bemidji, and the weather was perfect last weekend to launch it.
The impact of tourism on our local economy is great, as visitors and their boats head "Up North" for their cabins or to spend time in one dozens of resorts in the area.
This marks the first week after the opener, and the weather again looks like it will provide the ideal circumstances for visitors to our lakes -- and our local stores -- to boost the local economy.
It was seen last week at the remote resort area of Kabetogama Lake, site of the Governor's Fishing Opener. More than 5,000 people attended the opening community meal served under a huge tent at the water's edge.
Explore Minnesota information given media at that event shows Beltrami County, for 2008 with the latest available data, $68.4 million in gross sales, which yielded $4.25 million in state sales tax from the leisure and hospitality industry. It provided 1,673 jobs.
Gross sales in Hubbard County in the industry amounted to $30.3 million, with $1,86 million in state sales tax, and employing 766 people. Cass County saw $94.6 million in gross sales, $5.62 million in state sales, and providing 1,843 industry jobs.
All told, it's an $11,2 billion industry in Minnesota, providing nearly 250,000 jobs. It also delivered $695 million in state sales tax.
Tourism is an important sector of our economy, as travelers spend $33 million each day in Minnesota, and the leisure and hospitality industry accounts for 16 percent of state sales tax receipts. Tourism is comparable to agriculture in its contribution to the gross state product.
We're still in a recession, and some sectors hurt worse than others, but Bemidji fared well during the winter with our pipeline visitors, and now we welcome our summer visitors.
Over the past 30 years, the number of leisure and hospitality jobs in Minnesota more than doubled -- 127 percent from 1975 to 2005. The payroll for the sector grew even more during that period -- 157 percent inflation-adjusted.
Hopefully, fuel prices will remain constant and not deter travelers. But the trend in recent years has been to take shorter trips, a situation that can benefit Bemidji as only a four-hour drive from the Twin Cities.
A diverse economy is needed to weather through tough times, and we believe Bemidji is hard at work developing that diversity. Here's hoping for a successful tourism season!