By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota may be a bit more crowded this summer.

Tourism is on an upswing, with hotel and lodging occupancy expected to climb 42 percent from last year.

The bustle kicked off Memorial Day as travel bloggers from all over the world came to Mall of America.

The lakes, the food, the nightlife — writers gathered here to tell the world what so many Minnesotans already know.

From top to bottom, Minnesota is 86,943 square miles.

“There’s a lot of new things to experience all over Minnesota,” said Alyssa Ebel of Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism campaign.

And that’s why a packed room of travel experts are gathered at the Radisson Blu MOA.

“They’re all the travel bloggers, some of them are travel freelance writers, social media influencers with heavy followings all over Twitter and Instagram,” Ebel said. “We want them to get out there and talk about how great of a time they had in Minnesota, what did they see.”

One well known blogger, Johnny Jet, and his wife have become accidental regulars.

“When they told me the first time, said ‘Hey, you want to go to Minnesota?’  I was like, ‘Not really,'” said Jet, “and then when they told me, ‘You want to come in January?’ I was like, ‘Not a chance.’  But I came and it was amazing.”

Johnny Jet has been to Minnesota three times recently, writing article after article.

“First of all the people are so nice, the food is good, there’s so many attractions, there’s so much to do,” he said.

Jet is based in Los Angeles.

“It’s an easy flight no matter where you’re coming from in America and it’s getting cheaper now,” Jet said.

Low airfares are part of why state tourism recruiters are expecting a summer boom.

Explore Minnesota is also launching an advertising campaign in Texas.

“We think that people from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, they want to get out of the region to beat the summer heat,” Ebel said, “and there’s a lot of golfers in Dallas and we have a lot of golfing opportunities in Minnesota.”

And golf will be a major international pull to the area, thanks to the Ryder Cup in September. It’s a chance for people to take a swing at Minnesota, and that’s usually all it takes.

“I came and I got to tell you I fell in love with the place,” said Jet.

Tourism is a $13.5 billion industry in Minnesota. 30 percent of that travel happens during our summer months.

To learn more about hot spots in the state, click here.

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