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Tourism Gets Gubernatorial Boost
By Mark Zdechlik
January 28, 1999
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Part of MPR's Budget Series

One of Minnesota's largest industries is getting a boost from the new governor. Jesse Ventura's budget includes increasing the Office of Tourism's advertising budget by $5 million.

THE FORMER WRESTLER AND ACTOR says Minnesota can exploit his entertainment background to make the state a worldwide vacation destination. Since his election, Jesse Ventura has talked a lot about the importance of tourism, and people who work in the industry have taken note.

Ventura: You know, I get a lot of names that come along with me, but I'd like to be known as "Jesse the Tourism-Governor".
Ventura told the Minnesota Conference on Tourism, economic development and tourism go hand-in-hand. He says his advisers tell him for every dollar spent promoting Minnesota vacations, the state reaps nine dollars in benefits.
Ventura: You know, I can't think of anything else right now that excites me more; the tourism industry in Minnesota. We're a year-round industry here in Minnesota. That's what makes us unique. We have three distinct seasons, and I think all three seasons can be very attractive to people from around the country and around the world to come here. We just need to let them realize what we have here in Minnesota and exploit it more.
Ventura announced a $5 million increase in the Office of Tourism's biannual advertising budget. That budget currently stands at about $4 million. And he said he will draw on his entertainment background to help promote the state as a travel destination.

Tourism officials say international visitors stay twice as long and spend several-fold more than U.S. visitors spend on Minnesota vacations.

Ventura says a good place to begin a new push to increase international tourism is Japan, where Ventura says he remains very popular from his wrestling career.
Ventura: That opens the door for us. They love wrestling over there. They're extremely interested in this former wrestler who's now the governor of the state of Minnesota. And we need to exploit that.
Ventura says Minnesota can also promote its tourism industry by promoting its film industry. He says the more movies that are shot here, the more people will want to come here. His budget calls for exempting film and television productions from Minnesota's sales tax.
Ventura: I'm going to do my best to fill our hotel rooms for months on end with people who can draw attention to our state. And let me just tell you that my Rolodex probably has some unique numbers and names in it that I can refer to.
In addition to announcing the $5 million budget increase, Ventura reappointed Steve Markuson as head of the Office of Tourism.

For the past 10 years, Minnesota's tourism budget has been flat at about $8 million annually. Markuson says the entire picture is changing with the new governor. Markuson says Ventura's popularity and his interest in tourism will give a significant boost to the state's tourism industry.
Markuson: Our current media buying power is about half what it was 10 years ago and if we're going to continue to be players in the present marketplace, it's important for us to have a competitive budget. We really needs to step it up and jump-start the industry again. Once you lose market share, it's awfully tough to get it back . We've stretched the rubber band about as thinly as we can and it's time to look ahead.
Ventura is also pledging nearly $900,000 to upgrade the Office of Tourism's online marketing efforts.

Mark Zdechlik covers business issues for Minnesota Public Radio. You can reach him at