Tourism heats up
As this year's summer travel season winds down, more Americans are snatching up the chance for one last relaxing getaway during Labor Day weekend.
According to AAA projections, this year's Labor Day holiday may bring an increase in travel to many popular tourist destinations, including the Alexandria lakes area.
Estimations recently done by the auto club suggest that the number of travelers this Labor Day weekend will be up nearly 10 percent nationwide from 2009. They expect that 34.4 million people will journey at least 50 miles from home during the holiday travel period, which spans from September 2 to 6.
This optimistic news reflects what looks to have been an optimistic tourist season in the area this summer.
According to Coni McKay, executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, preliminary feedback from local retail and lodging industries indicates that the season has been successful overall, despite some inclement weather and the economy.
"Tourism is usually generated by the sun shining," said McKay. "The cold and rainy weekends in June created some early losses, but July and some of August made up for it...Weather will be an important factor in Labor Day tourism as well."
Tourism is also largely generated by events, a wide array of which drew large crowds to Alexandria this season. Strong numbers were reported at Awake the Lakes, Art in the Park, Vikingland Band Festival, the Resorter's Golf Tournament and many other events, said McKay.
Throughout the summer, downtown Alexandria has been bustling with many pedestrians. McKay reported a 30 percent increase of traffic in the visitors' center alone this year, which she said intuitively shows an increase in business on Broadway and beyond.
The Chamber of Commerce measures tourism based on retail sales, as the two go hand in hand, said McKay. While the actual data from the 2010 season will not be made available from the Department of Revenue until 2012, it appears as though both areas are on the upswing.
"People are still tending to take a vacation [despite the economy], but they are still staying closer to home and are economizing in whatever way they can to meet their family's needs," said McKay. "Now, the satisfaction of their visit is based more on the experience they have, not how much they spend."
The Alexandria lakes area is a prime vacation spot due to its affordability and convenient location just two hours from the metropolitan area.
"What attracts people here is the Minnesota nice hospitality, the 300 plus lakes in Douglas County, the casual fun atmosphere where people are free to be themselves," said McKay.
This might be just what vacationers are looking for as they ride one last wave of summer fun this Labor Day weekend.