Governor Tom Vilsack’s touting a nearly four percent increase in tourism activity in Iowa in the past year. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, Iowa’s tourism industry grew three-point-seven percent in 2003 — about one percent above the national average. Vilsack says more people are traveling by car, which means closer-to-home trips and Iowa is a more likely destination. But Vilsack says there’s also “a yearning in this country for what Iowa has to offer” and he says it’s our “small-town hospitality” that’s attracting more and more visitors.Vilsack says people are looking for more than “the glitz and the glitter” but things that are basic and fundamental. He says that’s why tourism is booming not just in urban but in rural Iowa, as Vilsack says he saw this past weekend during a trip to the Covered Bridges Festival in Madison County. Vilsack helped rededicate the Cedar Bridge, which has been rebuilt after being destroyed by fire. Vilsack says he was struck by the comments from out-of-staters who were attending the bridge dedication. “They were just unbelievably impressed with the hospitality and the wholesomeness of what takes place in our state,” Vislack says. Vilsack also maintains much of the growth in tourism can be attributed to new attractions financed, in part, by state “Vision Iowa” grants. For example, Dubuque County tourism grew by six-point-three percent from 2002 to 2003 — after the opening of the Mississippi River Museum. Tourism was a four-point-six billion dollar industry in Iowa in 2002.
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