Summer is officially over, but many Duluthians with ties to the tourism industry pivoted their focus to fall long before the trees of northeastern Minnesota were dotted with red and orange.
Duluth tourism is up 1.6% from last year, according to the city’s tourism tax collection numbers from January through July. In 2018, Duluth reeled in a record breaking $12.1 million in revenue from its tourism levies, which consist of a lodging tax and a food and beverage tax.
The tourism industry has grown fairly steadily for roughly two decades, said Anna Tanski, president of Visit Duluth, the nonprofit contracted for marketing by the city. Duluth is on track to continue that trend, despite a slower start in 2019 due at least in part to the polar vortex.
City officials said August totals, which are typically among the highest, won’t be available for a few weeks.
But while the summer months are the most popular for visiting Duluth, the city still raked in more than $1 million in tourism taxes in both September and October last year.
As the days grow shorter and the air turns cooler, the North Shore’s fall colors will draw hordes of people for hikes and drives through the region’s spectacular show of vibrant reds, yellows and oranges. This year’s hues could be particularly bright thanks to an extra wet summer, according to Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources
That means tourism-related businesses in the Northland are crossing their fingers for an autumn that’s warm and dry — the potential key to matching or exceeding last year’s success.
“We’re completely dependent on the weather and Mother Nature,” said Brandy Ream, executive director of Spirit Mountain, a longtime ski destination in Duluth that in more recent years has marketed itself as a year-round attraction with mountain biking and an adventure park in the warmer months.
“It absolutely dictates everything that we do,” she added. “We can have the best laid plans, we can have the best marketing in place, we can have the best staff ready to go. But if you wake up on a Saturday morning and it’s thunderstorming and pouring down rain, people don’t come for outdoor recreation.”