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With tourism down 20 percent in northern Minnesota, Sen. Klobuchar looking for solutions

Sen.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar says she wants to give northern Minnesota resorts a shot in the arm in this time of declining tourism, so she’s co-sponsoring a bill to attract more foreign visitors.

The Bemidji Pioneer says Klobuchar wants to fund the overseas tourism effort with a $10 fee on foreign travelers’ visas.

“Since 9/11, we’ve lost 20 percent of the international tourism market in this country,” Klobuchar said Wednesday during a meeting at the Beltrami County Administration Building. “That has little to do with the economy right now, as the trend really started with visa restrictions and how difficult it was for people to come visit.”

The recession is really hurting northern Minnesota resorts, said Jack Frost, a Beltrami County commissioner and resort owner who belongs to several state resort associations.

“I would suspect that we’re going do be down roughly 20 percent,” Frost said.

“That’s what I’m hearing; I heard it up on the North Shore, too,” Klobuchar said.

“By and large, I’m really excited about the notion of garnering more international trade,” Frost said. This summer, his resort had visitors from Germany, who’d heard about the place from a foreign exchange student.

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Klobuchar, chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion, is working with Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., on the Travel Promotion Act, which awaits action on the Senate floor. A similar version was approved by the House last year and has only recently been reintroduced.

“We’re really trying to put a focus on tourism, with both smaller and larger communities in the United States,” Klobuchar said of her subcommittee. “There isn’t as much focus on tourism in our country as there is in other countries.”