||In an effort to determine Lodging needs in Murray County, Murray County EDA and the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality conducted a survey of past Lake Shetek State Park Visitors and Murray County residents. They also interviewed local businesses about their lodging needs and mapped zip codes of overnight guests at Lake Shetek State Park.
Surveys and interviews assessed the perceived demand for overnight lodging, meeting/banquet space, and various hotel preferences such as price, amenities, and “hotel chain”. The purpose of including amenities, price, and chain preference was to give anyone who would choose to pursue additional lodging development an idea of what type of things customers are looking for.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 1,435 households stayed overnight in the Lake Shetek area during 2012. These visitors accounted for 3,099 nights with an average of 2.2 nights per visit. Figure 1 shows the distribution of visitors who stayed overnight at Lake Shetek. According to surveys, approximately 53 percent of the visitors to Lake Shetek in 2012 were first time visitors. Those who visited multiple times averaged 5-6 trips to Lake Shetek per year.
U of M Extension mailed out 250 surveys to past Lake Shetek visitors and 250 surveys to Murray County residents. They received responses from 166 (66% response rate) visitors and 153 (61% response rate) from Murray County residents.
To assess hotel demand, visitors were asked how likely they were to stay at a hotel/motel if one were available. Residents were asked how likely they thought their overnight guests would use a hotel/motel if one were available. In addition, residents were asked about their needs for banquet space and lodging for any events they might host.
Examining the need for Murray County residents, the authors estimate that guests of Murray County who said they are “most likely” or “very likely” to use lodging if available could account for a minimum of 1,000 room nights and possibly as many as 6,000 room nights. They also estimate as many as 1,000 events within the next five years that might require lodging and banquet/meeting space. With respect to Lake Shetek visitors, they estimate 86 households would likely stay at local lodging. They were not able to estimate a number of room nights because they did not gather any information about the visitors’ length of stay. Employers who were interviewed indicated they might generate 284 nights per year in lodging needs. However, they did not give any indication if these needs are completely met by existing resources.
With respect to hotel preferences, visitors and residents did not seem to differ much on what they considered a fair price for a hotel room. Visitors indicated $80 per night was fair while residents indicated $75 per night was fair. AmericInn was the most often mentioned chain with over 30 percent of visitors and residents listing them in their surveys. Three factors that were deemed most important to both visitors and residents was cleanliness, price, and pool availability. Price was also the overriding choice of both visitors and residents when they were asked to choose between low price or more amenities.