Over the last decade, scenic touring has risen to the top of the list of things people want to do while on vacation or as part of a getaway.
This is great news for Minnesota, a state that is home to twenty two officially designated scenic byways, five of those being nationally designated routes, one a multi-state route and one all-American road.
So, what do tourists in Minnesota think about roads? Or, maybe the first question should be, "Do tourists in Minnesota think about roads?" Yes, they do, according to researcher Linda Limback, formerly with the Tourism Center and the University of Minnesota. And they have some definite opinions too.
In August of 2000, five years before scenic touring found itself on the top of the vacation activities heap, five focus group discussions were held with tourists traveling along two of Minnesota's nationally designated scenic byways. The objective was to gain a better understanding of three things:
- How roads are perceived by tourists
- How roads impact a tourist's travel experience
- Whether tourists prefer certain attributes and amenities of road design, maintenance and service
The traveling public perceives roads in three general categories:
- Interstate and 4 lanes
- Other roads
- Scenic back roads
They recognize the official scenic designation, described by one participant this way, "This isn't your average road. Maybe an 'ooh' factor every two miles and an 'aah' factor every five miles."
As a travel experience, tourists prefer traveling the slower scenic routes either on their way to a destination or while they are at a destination. Rarely do they choose these routes for the trip home. The nationally designated Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway is located on 54 miles of county roads in north Crow Wing County and into Pine River in Cass County. Shoulder paving along the entire route is nearly completed, making multi-use safer and more appealing. Today when tourists from within Minnesota or those traveling to Minnesota think about the roads and decide which one to choose, they have more reasons than ever to select the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway. Some information for this article taken from Vistas, April 2001.