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Economy hurting Duluth’s tourism industry

In a tale likely being played out in tourism spots around the state, Duluth-area hotels and restaurants are reporting lower revenues this year.
And it’s not just anecdotal; the Duluth News Tribune reports that hotel/motel taxes were down 8 percent

In a tale likely being played out in tourism spots around the state, Duluth-area hotels and restaurants are reporting lower revenues this year.

And it’s not just anecdotal; the Duluth News Tribune reports that hotel/motel taxes were down 8 percent in the first five months of this year, compared with the same time period last year. And restaurants report food and beverage sales down about 1.5 percent.

Officials say it’s the bad economy.

“We’ve certainly seen a drop in occupancy, especially in the past six months,” said Lisa Augustine, general manager of the Holiday Inn downtown.

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“The argument was made that we’re a local destination, that instead of people going to Disney World they might go to Duluth,” said Tony Barrett, an economics professor at the College of St. Scholastica. “But I think this does show that at least during the first five months of the year when there clearly was a recession … that our tourism industry is not totally recession-proof. It’s vulnerable to the same downturns as other discretionary spending.”

Local tourism boosters are doing their best to put a good face on the numbers, saying that the statistics don’t show the summer months when tourism should pick up.

“We’re just getting into the peak of tourist season,” said Gene Shaw, a spokesman for Visit Duluth, which promotes tourism for the city.