The Tourism Center Fund supports our work helping communities use research, education and collaboration to guide local decision-making, drive marketing strategies, and inform policy and strengthen local economies through tourism.
The Tourism Center empowers, prepares and supports the tourism industry, and communities engaging in tourism for success and sustainability. Below, find tourism-focused news articles, webinars and research reports to help inform and support your community.
Minnesota's showcase of rural innovation expands, yet has more potential for success.
Festivals and events have both direct and indirect economic impacts on local economies. Extension impact studies help communities understand the cost and benefit of local tourism.
Driven by what’s important to Minnesota tourism and outdoor recreation
Minnesota’s $16 billion tourism industry relies on research and education from the University of Minnesota Tourism Center. Our research and education stays relevant because we stay in touch with both the industry and communities.
How can we help your industry or community? Learn about our focus areas in the following section. Explore our research reports for completed community-led and partner projects.
Discover how our research-based education and programs help communities create and sustain local tourism experiences.
Tourism has evolved as a development priority for many communities. It can enhance the local economy and foster the protection of local resources. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, residents and visitors alike have increasingly sought festivals and events that create community and provide unique experiences. The Tourism Center has a long history of assisting communities that want to develop or enhance tourism and festivals.
Our educators work with communities at all stages of tourism development to identify local assets, explore new ideas and create sustainable tourism efforts. Our Festival and Event Management (FEM) online course provides hands-on knowledge that strengthen festival organizers' skills in managing successful and fiscally sustainable festivals.
Project and research example
Online training program — The 2023 Minnesota state legislature has appropriated funding to create and launch an online customer service training program. Free of charge to Minnesota residents, this asynchronous and mobile-friendly program will provide frontline workers with basic skill-level customer service training.
During the past two legislative sessions, the Tourism Center supported this legislative effort by Hospitality Minnesota and a variety of partners. We have been working with Hospitality Minnesota, Explore Minnesota Tourism, and a wide range of stakeholders and partners to bring this online training program to life in summer 2024.
Outdoor recreation is a growing sector of the United States economy. The outdoor recreation economy accounted for 1.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP) for the United States in 2021. Inflation-adjusted GDP for the outdoor recreation economy increased 18.9% in 2021, compared with a 5.9% increase for the overall U.S. economy.
According to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recently signed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, Forest Service, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) on supporting the nation’s outdoor recreation economy, building the recreation economy in the United States is one of USDA’s top priorities. The Tourism Center has been working diligently at community, state, and national levels to help Minnesota communities leverage the benefits of the growing outdoor recreation economy.
Projects and research examples
St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Climate Change Scenario Planning Workshop — UMN Tourism Center's Ami Choi and Xinyi Qian were invited to participate in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway climate scenario planning workshop held on May 17-18, 2023 in Osceola, Wisconsin. The purpose of the workshop was to help the riverway develop realistic and reasonable management and conservation goals in a variety of climate scenarios.
The workshop brought together more than 45 content experts from multiple federal, state, and local agencies, as well as academic and non-profit organizations. We will post the report here once it becomes available.
Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) proposal — The Tourism Center participated in a LCCMR proposal, led by Extension's Department of Youth Development. The proposal has been recommended for funding. The two-year program aims to nurture youth's pro-environmental behaviors through outdoor education so they feel connected to and engaged with nature, and empowered to take action to conserve and preserve its resources. If approved by the 2024 Legislature and signed into law by the governor, the project would begin in September 2024.
Participation in the National Extension Outdoor Recreation Working Group — In November 2022, members of the NET Design Team led an outdoor recreation networking meeting that resulted in the creation of the National Extension Outdoor Recreation Working Group. The working group officially launched with its first meeting in February 2023 and has been meeting quarterly. The Tourism Center participates in this working group, identifying priorities and shaping engagement strategies across all four rural development regions.
Help your community and local businesses get data and information on your visitors. The Tourism Center employs a variety of approaches, from traditional survey methods to mobile analytics, to gather consumer intelligence as appropriate.
Projects and research examples
Brainerd Lakes YMCA Economic Impact project — the Tourism Center used emergent mobile data tools to better understand connections between the use of the YMCA facilities and the Brainerd community.
Case study (in progress) — We are currently producing a case study, comparing the traditional intercept survey approach with three different mobile analytics platforms. We expect to publish this case study in fall 2023.
Agritourism is most simply defined as where agriculture and tourism meet. Over the past few years, the Tourism Center built and maintained a statewide agritourism workgroup with comprehensive representation from state agencies, non-profit organizations that serve producers, and on-campus entities that support agritourism. Workgroup members actively leverage each other’s expertise and resources across the country to serve agritourism operators in Minnesota.
- Agritourism: where agriculture and tourism meet
- Agritourism fact sheet
- State of agritourism in Minnesota fact sheet (based on 2017 Agricultural Census data)
- Promoting wine tourism in Minnesota
Project and research example
Renewing the Countryside — the Tourism Center and our Extension colleagues have been working with Renewing the Countryside on a project funded by the Farmers Markets and Local Foods Promotion Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This two-year project provides education, evaluation, and technical assistance to a cohort of eight selected on-farm events across Greater Minnesota.
Mobility is essential to travel, tourism, hospitality and outdoor recreation. From using shared mobility as ground transportation in tourism destinations to the availability of electric vehicle charging stations in gateway communities and outdoor recreation destinations, the promise and challenge of mobility will continue to impact communities and the tourism industry.
- Future of Mobility piece on access to tourism and outdoor recreation in rural areas
Projects and research examples
Understanding post-COVID safety concerns, perceptions, and preferences of transit and share — A recently completed project funded by Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Xinyi Qian (Tourism Center) is a co-principal investigator.
Telecommuting during COVID-19: How does it shape the future workplace and workforce? — A recently completed project funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Xinyi Qian (Tourism Center) is the principal investigator.
We have been strengthening Minnesota tourism for more than 30 years. Our partnerships extend our work to all 87 counties in Minnesota and beyond.
In 1987, the University of Minnesota Tourism Center was created. That same year, Curtis L. Carlson made an initial gift to establish the Carlson Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Chair. This gift inspired additional gifts from more than 130 tourism industry supporters.
Over the years, projects supported with Carlson Chair funds have made an impact in every Minnesota county and tourism sector. As a result of our research and educational efforts, social, political and cultural capital has increased across Minnesota.
An experienced, passionate, and knowledgeable industry advisory committee drives our success. Advisory committee members provide insight and ideas related to applied research, education and engagement. The 22-member committee represents the depth and breadth of the industry in Minnesota. Each member is an individual with a passion for, and commitment to, the tourism, travel or hospitality industry.
Tourism Center affiliates bring additional expertise in areas that impact the tourism industry. They are faculty, researchers, and professional staff in multiple disciplines across the University of Minnesota system. Their academic areas of interest align with Minnesota’s tourism industry and the mission of the Tourism Center.