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Tourism generates significant dollars to Park Rapids Lakes Area

National Tourism Week is being celebrated through May 17. Park Rapids Lakes Area businesses benefit from visitors to the region. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

For those who visit the Park Rapids Lakes Area on a day trip, weekend getaway or extended vacation, the focus is on having a good time. 

"But for our local businesses, the focus is on the bottom line," said Katie Magozzi. "These visitors bring dollars that benefit the local economy in significant ways," the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber executive director said.

  In Minnesota, tourism generates $11 billion for the state economy and $679 million in sales tax revenue that benefits state residents. 

The leisure and hospitality industry accounts for 247,800 jobs across the state, almost 11 percent of private sector employment, with $3.9 billion in wages. 

Every county across the state feels the positive economic impact of tourism, Magozzi said.

"Tourism is a major economic force in Minnesota. And the industry is growing every year," she said. Statewide, sales at leisure and hospitality businesses grew 35 percent from 2000 to 2007. "And it's become a year-round industry."

The Park Rapids Lakes Area includes all of Hubbard County and extends well into Becker County. It includes Chamber member resorts, motels, bed and breakfast hostelries, attractions, entertainment and dining, Magozzi said. 

In Hubbard County, travelers spend nearly $30 million annually, supporting 764 jobs and generating $1.9 million in tax revenue. In Becker County, visitors spend over $66 million annually, supporting 1,352 jobs and generating over $4 million in tax revenue.    

  Many businesses benefit from these expenditures, Magozzi pointed out. 

"Hotels and motels, resorts, campgrounds and B&Bs all rely on travelers for their business success," Magozzi said. "But many more 'Main Street' businesses in our communities receive significant income from visitors." They include restaurants, shops, service stations, grocery stores, museums and theaters and more. 

"It's about values and value," Magozzi said, "family values and vacation value."

In these trying economic times, families "are stopping to consider how to spend their valuable time. There's so much to do here that's free," she said of the parks and trails, recreation on lakes, telling tall tales around the campfire and the "intangibles.

"Making memories is what we're all about," she said of the "rich bouquet of life to be gleaned" in the lakes region.

"It's a beautiful place... at a different pace," Magozzi said, quoting her recently composed quip.

  According to Explore Minnesota, tourism provides a healthy return on the investment. Every $1 invested in state and local tourism and marketing returns an estimated $4.60 in state and local taxes, $20.40 in wages and $53 in gross sales.

Explore Minnesota Tourism research states spending is distributed throughout the local economy. During a trip, visitors spent 25 percent on shopping, 25 percent on recreation, 24 percent on food, 14 percent on lodging and 12 percent on transportation.

  In rural Minnesota, tourism has a symbiotic relationship with local commerce, Magozzi said. "It's an industry that's golden."

Explore Minnesota Tourism markets the state as a travel destination.  On the local level, the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce pools their money with the Park Rapids City Lodging Association to promote the communities as travel destinations, playing a significant role in drawing visitors to their cities. 

  "An estimated 39 million people travel in Minnesota each year. Attracting some of those visitors to the Park Rapids Lakes Area will mean good times for these travelers, but also for the businesses and residents of our community," Magozzi said.

National Tourism Week will be celebrated May 9-17.