MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A recent survey of Minnesota’s tourism and hospitality businesses highlighted the need for change in the industry, as nearly two-thirds of businesses reported significantly lower sales and customer traffic in the fall compared to the previous year.

Explore Minnesota, Hospitality Minnesota, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis conducted the survey in mid-December, during a time when indoor dining at restaurants and bars were closed due to an executive order. The initial shut-down for those businesses started in mid-November, when new daily COVID cases in the state were reaching record highs.

On Monday, restaurants started opening up again for indoor dining at 50% capacity, and gyms, which had also been shut down, can now operate at 25% capacity.

The survey, which included those in the restaurant, attraction, entertainment, and lodging industries, questioned the businesses about revenue, financial security, and customer traffic in the last quarter of 2020.

Out of all the businesses, 50% said they could only remain solvent for the next six months under lockdown conditions; roughly 30% said they could only stay above water for three months or less.

Solvency (Credit: Explore Minnesota)

The Twin Cities have been hit especially hard by the closures; 84% of metro area businesses say their revenue has declined significantly. Southwestern Minnesota follows closely behind.

“This continues to be a devastating time for the hospitality industry that provides one-in-ten jobs in Minnesota. It will be a very long recovery for many businesses so it’s critical we do everything we can to support them or Minnesota’s way of life will shift dramatically,” said Liz Rammer, CEO of Hospitality Minnesota.

Over 66% of food and drink businesses reported that they had seen a “significant negative effect” due to the restrictions put in place in November. However, resorts and campgrounds had the most positive financial reports, as over half said they had seen overall positive health.

Business’ Financial Health (Credit: Explore Minnesota)

Looking to the future, 60% of respondents said they expect business to return to pre-pandemic levels in the second half of 2021.

The governor on Thursday announced that the Minnesota Department of Revenue had given out $63.7 million in business relief payments related to the pandemic. Nearly 4,000 businesses impacted the by six-week shutdown – restaurants, bars, gyms, and bowling centers – received the aid.

“The relief comes at a crucial time for our businesses who continue to make enormous sacrifices for the health and safety of Minnesotans,” said Walz. “This is a critical lifeline for those businesses and for the Minnesotans whose livelihoods depend on them.”