DULUTH, MN-An extended cold snap has brought November temperatures to summer months in Minnesota, and that has put a damper on the typically brisk summer trade in resort destinations in northern Minnesota from Grand Marais to Bay Lake. Lodging was down 15% in May and June among the 35 hotels and resorts in the Grand Marais area on the North Shore of Lake Superior, says Greg Spanton, director of the Grand Marais Area Tourism Association.

“I think it has slowed things up,” says Chris Ruttger, manager of Ruttger’s Bay Lodge, a 167-unit resort in Deerwood. Despite an improved economy, his resort is having a “below average” summer, he says.

Terry Mattson, head of the Duluth Convention and Visitors Bureau, says cool weather has hurt “everything but sweatshirt sales.” Some resort owners worry that this year’s cold, rainy, windy conditions may keep people from reserving lodging next year.

As a statewide industry, tourism is as big as agriculture, generating $9 billion in revenues and employing 230,000 people, according to Explore Minnesota Tourism, the new name for the state of Minnesota’s tourism bureau. Measured by travelers, the northern regions account for more than a third of the industry, according to John Edman, head of Explore Minnesota Tourism.

Despite the chill on northern resorts, Minnesota’s lodging occupancy rates have outpaced the nation — up 7.2% in June compared with a 3.3% increase in the nation, according to Smith Travel Research. Most of the increase has come from tourists flocking to the Twin Cities, where hotel occupancy is up by double digits. Dragging down the average are Duluth, whose lodging fell 1.7% in June, and the rest of northern Minnesota, which was up an anemic 2.2%.

The summer has been consistently below averages, culminating in some frost warnings earlier this month. Several towns in Northern Minnesota recently had record lows in the mid-20s, well below freezing. The cold snap has also hurt some of the state’s crops, including corn.

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