Minnesota tries to woo Canadian tourists with new marketing blitz


Minnesota is looking to attract visitors from its northern neighbor with a new marketing campaign.

Driving the news: Monday marks the United States lifting of COVID-era restrictions on non-essential international travel for vaccinated foreigners, including at the Minnesota border with Canada.

Why is this important: More than 500,000 Canadians visited Minnesota in 2019, according to Tourism Economics data, spending about $ 175 million.

  • A return to those levels could boost the state’s besieged tourism and hospitality sector, which is still struggling.

In numbers : The occupancy rate of Twin Cities hotels ended September at 50.5%, still down significantly from September 2019, when it was 74%, according to STR.

What is happening: Explore Minnesota is targeting residents of Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, Canada, with billboards, local newspaper inserts, and social media and Google search ads.

  • “We missed you, dear friend,” the full-page print ad read. “COVID may have closed our borders, but we welcome you with open arms.”
  • More: Grand Portage Casino, just seven miles south of the border, is offering drink coupons, base points and freebies to Canadian players starting today.

Between the lines: An increase in leisure travel and more buyers from Canada and beyond will likely help many businesses, especially in border communities like International Falls.

  • But full recovery, especially in the subway, will require a return from business travel and conferences, noted Ben Wogsland of Hospitality Minnesota.
  • Labor shortages and debt induced by the pandemic continue to hamper the rebound, he added.

What they say : “Canadians have come to shop, they have come to explore our great restaurants and retailers, hotels, resorts, so I think everyone across the state can be happy about this opening,” he said. Explore Minnesota spokeswoman Alyssa Hayes said, noting that the shutdown has also separated many family and friends.

To note : It’s not just border destinations that are celebrating change. About 10% of visitors to the Mall of America are international, the mall estimates, with a “large lineup” coming from Winnipeg and Thunder Bay.

  • “MOA visits continue to rebound and we are confident that 2022 will bring a continued increase in traffic with pent-up demand for international travel,” an MOA spokesperson told Axios.

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