Crookston is a member of the Riverland Association.

    Tourism generates big bucks in the region, and this week the Riverland Association held a conference in Crookston, on the UMC campus, to figure out how communities can keep more of those dollars in their towns.

    It was the fifth year of the conference, said Sandy Kegler of the Crookston Chamber and Visitors Bureau. The Riverland Association is comprised of volunteers in Crookston, East Grand Forks/Grand Forks, Fertile, Red Lake Falls, St. Hilaire and Thief River Falls who work to boost opportunities through tourism, she said.

    The conference, held in UMC’s Bede Ballroom, drew around 35 people who brainstormed on how to get more bang for their tourism buck.

    In 2011, according to Explore Minnesota Tourism figures provided by Kegler, gross sales from tourism in the seven northwestern Minnesota couties of Polk, Kittson, Marshall, Normal, Pennington, Red Lake and Roseau totaled just under $93 million. In addition that year, almost $6.2 million was collected in sales tax, and 2,292 jobs were created and sustained.

    “That’s impact,” Kegler said. “Tourism makes sense.”