While North Dakota doesn’t draw as many visitors as most states, tourism plays a big role in the state. It remains the third-largest industry in North Dakota.
In 2018, 22.6 million people visited the state and spent about $3 billion. Tourism increased about 4% in 2018, and the spending resulted in about $300 million in state and local taxes. Figures for 2019 haven’t been released yet.
The state’s 2020 tourism campaign will focus on our wide-open spaces with the slogan of “Don’t follow the crowds -- follow your curiosity.” The challenge facing the North Dakota Tourism Division’s $2.9 million campaign is to make people across the country curious about the state.
Promoting the state’s openness and lack of crowds isn’t a bad idea. While Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Medora get a lot of attention, there are a lot of beautiful places and attractions everywhere in North Dakota.
Actor and Minot native Josh Duhamel will again be the center of the campaign. While not the biggest Hollywood star, his personality fits North Dakota. He makes people feel comfortable and has been an enthusiastic spokesman.
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Tourism impacts most sectors of our society: lodging, retail, air travel, restaurants, recreation, parks, museums and more. People come from across the country to try out the Maah Dah Hey Trail.
Luring tourists here isn’t easy, especially since the Tourism Division’s budget isn’t large compared to other states. Most Americans don’t know much about North Dakota, so creating curiosity makes sense. We need to give people a reason to want to come.
North Dakota doesn’t need to be a destination in itself. If we can create enough interest in the state, travelers can include it in their travel plans. If they are visiting Yellowstone National Park or Mount Rushmore, they can take a side trip to North Dakota.
The Tourism Division has been asked to do a lot with minimal resources. It has a two-year budget of about $11 million and a staff of 15 employees. It has to be smart with its budget, and the 2018 increase in tourism indicates it has effective strategies.
When North Dakota makes national news, it increases awareness of the state. When Cara Mund won the Miss America title it was a victory for the state. More people knew about North Dakota after her reign.
North Dakota State University winning its eighth FCS championship in nine years on national TV drew a lot of attention. The television coverage of the game should be considered as free tourism promotion. Even when the announcers discussed the weather it probably created curiosity among viewers.
If the Tourism Division can get more people curious enough about the state to come visit, it benefit all North Dakotans.