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Tourists spent $319 million in Duluth last year

The ship canal in Canal Park is packed with people enjoying the Parade of Sail at the start of the Tall Ships Festival on Aug. 18, 2016. (file photo / News Tribune)

More than 6.7 million visitors poured $319 million into Duluth's economy last year, according to a report released Monday.

"It had been nearly a decade since an investment was made to gather this type of critical research data," Visit Duluth CEO Anna Tanski said in a press release. "The findings from this research will be utilized for many years to come in our marketing and planning areas of focus."

Visit Duluth, which pitches the city to potential visitors, hired Longwoods International for the $20,000 study.

Not every finding in the report will come as a surprise: "Overall trip experience and friendliness of the people received the highest satisfaction ratings for overnight visitors to Duluth," according to the study.

But some data can help Visit Duluth better reach all the tourists-in-waiting out there. For example, 87 percent of last year's overnight visitors had been to Duluth before — which means plenty of first-time visitors have yet to make the trip.

Of the tourist visits in 2015, 2.3 million were overnight stays and 4.4 million were day trips. Most were planned in two months or less before the trip and included an average of three people.

Just more than half of visits last year were called "marketable trips," defined by the Longwoods report as those that "can be influenced by marketing efforts. The most prevalent marketable trip types were touring through the region and trips to enjoy outdoor activities."

More than two-thirds of visitors used social media for their travel, on par with the national average.

Visit Duluth said that beyond the $319 million in direct spending — roughly $50 per visitor, two-thirds of which was spent on lodging, food and drink — tourism had a $957 million economic impact.

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

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