CHICAGO -- Minnesota Gov. Jesse "The Body" Ventura is changing his
nickname to Jesse "The Tourism" Ventura and pledging to provide
travel agents with "whatever you want" in the way of assistance "to
include Minnesota in your travel planning."
Ventura was in Chicago May 3 on behalf of the Minnesota Office
of Tourism to try and lure more people from Chicago to vacation in
Minnesota. A media mob followed the former professional wrestler as
he walked down Michigan Avenue. Later he spoke at the Chicago
Hilton and Towers.
Asked why anyone would want to travel to Minnesota, Ventura
responded: "Because I am there. You can come and look at the people
who elected me governor. I have warned them that if they see people
staring at them, this is what is happening."
Ventura said "half a million" people from Chicago visit
Minnesota each year "and we want to expand on that."
Ventura said Minnesota has great public golf courses "where you
won't have any trouble getting in"; fishing; the city of Duluth
where a new fresh-water aquarium is opening soon; bald eagles, and
the Mall of America.
Minnesota Office of Tourism director Steve Markuson, who leaves
the job May 15, said Ventura is the first Minnesota governor in
recent memory to support funding tourism in the state.
"We had not received a budget increase in 12 years," until
Ventura became governor, Markuson said.
Ventura helped push through a tourism office budget increase
from $8 million a year to $10 million a year, said Markuson. With
that increase the office was able to increase its media promotion
budget from $2.5 million a year to $5 million a year, he said.