A record number of people visited the Twin Cities last year, and they spent more money on lodging, dining and entertainment, new data shows.
More than 33 million tourists came to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in 2017, a 2.5 percent increase over the previous year’s record numbers.
Meet Minneapolis, the nonprofit that promotes tourism and hospitality in Minnesota’s largest city, on Monday released the results of a survey conducted by Virginia-based D.K. Shifflet, which tracks travel patterns nationwide. The Minneapolis-St. Paul results are based on a sample of nearly 1,400 respondents.
Those visitors spent $7.8 billion on travel-related expenses while in the region, also a record high since the Minneapolis tourism group started tracking visits in 2010.
“We’ve seen steady growth since we started tracking,” said Melvin Tennant, chief executive of Meet Minneapolis. “We are happy with the great year we had.”
The numbers do not include visitors who came to the Twin Cities for the Super Bowl since it happened in February. The Super Bowl Host Committee is expected to release an economic impact analysis of that event later this month.
Minneapolis and its surrounding cities received some help from several national publications that placed the city on their lists of top travel destinations for 2017.
The city garnered a place in the New York Times’ Top 52 Places to Go in 2017 and Condé Nast Traveler gave the city a shout-out in its Best Places to Travel in 2017. The Wall Street Journal gave Minneapolis a spot on its exclusive Where to Travel in 2018, which was published in October and only includes 10 destinations worldwide.
“We rely heavily on the earned media we receive,” Tennant said. “It does have a tremendous impact when you have someone else give you that kind of recognition. It’s a third-party endorsement, if you will.”
The vast majority — 24.2 million — of the visitors in 2017 were leisure travelers. They account for about 70 percent of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s visitors while 30 percent are business travelers, but Tennant points out this skews more business-related than the national average of 80 percent leisure to 20 percent business, respectively.
About half the region’s visitors come from within the state of Minnesota. The other half largely come from the surrounding states of Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Meet Minneapolis is now focused on developing neighborhood guides that can give visitors a more authentic feel for the local culture.
“There are a number of trends in the industry,” Tennant said. “Visitors are coming to a destination looking for an experience more similar to a local [person’s]. That coincides with the fact that we are doing a lot more neighborhood marketing.”
About 36,000 people in Minneapolis make their living in travel and tourism, Tennant said. Meet Minneapolis has a goal of attracting 50 million annual visitors by 2030.