Canadians, business travelers help ND tourism grow

AP News
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Posted: Nov 24, 2009 10:31 AM

North Dakota is outpacing the nation in tourism growth, thanks in part to business travelers and Canadian shoppers, state officials said.

At a news conference Monday, state tourism officials pointed to five studies that show the state's core tourism grew by 10.7 percent from 2006 to 2008, compared to a national growth rate of 8.1 percent.

Core tourism includes the industries of accommodations, entertainment, retail, dining and transportation.

"There is no one perfect number to measure tourism, we know that," said Sara Otte Coleman, the state tourism director. "That's why we employ a number of different studies."

The studies include research by Longwoods International, Statistics Canada, the U.S. Travel Association and North Dakota State University.

Visitor spending in North Dakota increased by 11.5 percent between 2006 and 2008 compared to 2.1 percent growth nationally, said Shane Norton, spokesman for IHS Global Insight. A visitor is someone who travels 50 miles to a destination or stays overnight for something related to day-to-day activity, such as commuting for work.

"Nationally, we're seeing fewer and fewer people traveling, but not in North Dakota," Norton said.

The Statistics Canada survey showed Canadian travel increased by 32 percent and spending increased by 86 percent between 2006 and 2008. Border crossings at North Dakota increased 16 percent in that period, the study found.

The state increased its marketing in Manitoba and Saskatchewan when the Canadian dollar became more favorable against the American dollar, Coleman said.

"We specifically target folks who are going to come for things we have to offer," she said.

Business travel in the state also increased in that two-year period, at a time when it declined across the country, Norton said.

Besides visitor spending, the IHS Global Insight study includes construction spending, government support, tax collection, border crossings and airline travel, Norton said.

"This enables us to generate a look at not only at what the visitor spending impact is, but what the total tourism industry impact is," Norton said.