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Extension > Source - Winter 2009 > Extension tourism work of 1960s helped lay foundation for today

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Extension tourism work of 1960s helped lay foundation for today

Family photo tourism

Parks, resorts and other Minnesota destinations have earned more tourism dollars while maintaining quality of life for citizens, thanks to Extension programming that began in the 1960s.

Lawrence Simonson began reaching out to Minnesota resort owners four decades ago, when he sensed needs within the tourism industry the University could help address.

"We already had a system in place in Extension to work with rural communities, businesses and agriculture," says the retired Extension tourism specialist. "I could see where that could adapt quite well to the content of a tourism and recreation program."

Simonson and his colleagues went on to establish Extension's first such program in 1966 with the ultimate goal of improving the quality and profitability of Minnesota tourism. They conducted workshops and seminars catering to resort owners and operators, published a regular newsletter and worked closely with the state department of tourism.

This early work gave rise to the University's now-thriving Tourism Center. Simonson and his fellow educators assisted community leaders in planning and developing tourism in a way that increased business activity, yet respected the interests of local citizens and protected their natural resources.

Today, industry leaders call that concept "sustainable tourism," and the Tourism Center helps educate business owners and community leaders how to continually improve upon environmentally responsible tourism practices.

For example, Nikki Anderson, manager of the Inn on Lake Superior, works to help ensure the Duluth establishment is up to speed on water-conservation techniques, recycling and energy audits, to name a few.

"We were plowing new ground back then," Simonson says. New ground that helped lay a solid foundation for today's tourism education efforts.

For more information on the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, a collaboration of Extension and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, visit

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