State (ND) gets return on tourism spending

The state of North Dakota spent $1.94 million promoting tourism last year and received $176.9 million in visitor spending in 2010.

“It cost $1.88 to generate one trip to North Dakota,” said Tourism Director Sara Otte Coleman. “Research shows that our investment is paying off.”

Anything under a ratio of $2 per trip is considered good, she said.

The tourism division used a study by research consultant Longwoods International to quantify the results of its promotion. According to Otte Coleman, visitors brought in $91 in spending and paid $7 in state and local taxes for each dollar the state spent on advertising.

According to the research, there were more than 1 million trips into North Dakota in 2010, producing growth in all of the categories the department measures.

Canadian border crossings were up by 20 percent over 2009, according to the division’s year-end results. Lodging tax revenue was up by 15 percent, air passengers by 11 percent, visits to major attractions and visitor centers by 8 percent and hotel occupancies by 5.1 percent. State and national parks also had increases of 4 percent over 2009.

“The research shows our investments are paying off,” said Gov. Jack Dalrymple at a Thursday press conference on tourism data.

Otte Coleman said tourism numbers for the country were slowly improving with a forecasted 1.6 percent improvement in leisure travel in 2011. Challenges for the industry continue to be a slow economic recovery and rising gas prices.

Otte Coleman said the state division would continue to promote North Dakota as a lower cost destination and to put the rise in gas prices in the perspective of adding a marginal cost to the average trip.

“We want to convince people that it’s not worth abandoning your vacation plans,” she said.

Otte Coleman said the tourism division planned to keep its advertising spending at $1.94 million in near future.

(Reach reporter Christopher Bjorke at 250-8261 or chris.bjorke@bismarcktribune.com.)