Lake of the Woods Tourism Testifies to U.S. Senate Committee on Tourism and Outdoor Recreation

Category: article

 Jun 18th, 2021 by Keith Worrall 

Modified Jun 18th, 2021 at 1:15 PM

Baudette, MN. – June 17, 2021

On Tuesday, Lake of the Woods Tourism’s Executive Director, Joe Henry, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Tourism, Trade and Export Promotion Subcommittee. The hearing was titled “The State of Outdoor Tourism, Recreation and Ecotourism,” and Henry of Lake of the Woods Tourism was asked to testify about tourism and outdoor recreation throughout Minnesota.

“Outdoor tourism and the recreation industry, including the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses and communities have created both challenges and opportunities for the industry,” explained Henry. “Many outdoor recreation destinations and companies are booming. Others are not. There are inherent challenges throughout the state and many cases in the country, however, that need addressing.”

Witnesses included:

• Mr. Colin Robertson, Administrator, State of Nevada’s Division of Outdoor Recreation

• Mr. Joe Henry, Executive Director, Lake of the Woods Tourism

• Mr. Glenn Hughes, President, American Sportfishing Association

• Mr. Zachary Hartman, Chief Policy Officer, Ducks Unlimited

Henry had the chance to touch on a number of points affecting tourism, hospitality and outdoor recreation throughout Minnesota.

There were numerous points discussed through the testimony including:

• The ongoing support of Senator Klobuchar strongly behind tourism and hospitality in the great state of Minnesota is greatly appreciated.

• Legislation introduced by Senators Klobuchar and Smith of MN called The Remote Recreational Small Business Interruption Program Act would provide forgivable loans to small businesses in exclaves of the contiguous United States near the Canadian border.

• NW Angle Resorts, businesses, cabin owners and guests have been “cut off” from driving to the Angle since March, 2020.

• Lake of the Woods Tourism has been working on a two phased approach regarding the Angle. First, to open the 40 miles of road through Canada. Second, to secure a forgivable loan program for businesses negatively affected by the pandemic and related border closure.

• Labor, or lack thereof, is still a threat to businesses across Minnesota. It is affecting many aspects of business, and certainly the tourism and hospitality industries, in a negative manner.

• Short term housing is an issue throughout much of Minnesota. That combined with affordable housing in some markets are big barriers to a healthy workforce.

• Daycare is also an issue affecting employers and workers. In some cases, it isn’t available. In cases with larger companies with multiple shifts, there is only daycare offered during the day.

• Broadband continues to be an issue in areas. Reliable and fast broadband levels the playing field with employment, strengthens the workforce and is vital to students taking classes from home.

• The Outdoor Recreation Task Force was a joint effort created between Explore Minnesota Tourism and the Minnesota DNR. Recommendations from the task force included…

o Developing an office of Outdoor Recreation for the State of MN. There are 13 others in the U.S. currently

o Increase participation to advance equity, diversity and inclusivity

o Unite Minnesota’s outdoor recreation community

o Unify communications amongst Minnesota’s diverse outdoor recreation sector

• Brand USA is a successful public – private partnership formed under the bipartisan Travel Promotion Act of 2009, charged with promoting the U.S. as a destination to global travelers. As this is an important part of Explore Minnesota’s international promotional strategy, re-authorizing funding by congress is highly desired.

For more information on the hearing, including a link to the video recording, click here. For a transcript of Henry’s testimony, as prepared, click here.

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