State tourism industry sees upward trend
MARQUETTE — As Michigan’s travel and tourism industry continues to grow, state officials continue their search for better ways to market the area, such as an updated website and advertising campaigns focused more on passions, rather than just destinations.
“I’m a trails guy,” said David Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan. “I like to run and hike and walk trails, so I want to go to a place that has great trails for that type of experience; and, frankly, as a traveler, do I really care if that’s in Traverse City or Marquette? Maybe not. But I want to know that I can do that in these various places, and then I want to see what else I can do in those areas while I do the things I’m truly passionate about.”
Lorenz was the first speaker Wednesday at a travel and tourism conference called “Uppertunities” at the Ramada Inn in Marquette. The event was sponsored by the Delta County Chamber of Commerce and is typically held in Delta County.
In 2016 Michigan invested $12.9 million in out-of-state advertising, Lorenz said, and it seems to have had a positive impact on the tourism industry.
“We know it motivated 5.1 million trips into and throughout the state of Michigan,” he said. “Those people spent $1.5 billion in their experience here. That generated $107 million in state taxes, so for every dollar we invested in the campaign, it brought back $8.33.”
Lorenz said the hotel industry has also benefitted, with last year’s occupancy rates up slightly from 2015 hitting 60.4 percent.
Meanwhile, the average daily rate hotels charge for a stay went up to slightly more than $100 per night — an increase of 4.5 percent from 2015 — and the revenue per available room was up 9 percent from 2015, reaching $62.50, he said.
“When you look at all those three together, that is excellent news for the hotel industry, and the hotel industry is a barometer for the entire industry,” Lorenz explained.
Lorenz said Travel Michigan began revising its promotional campaigns last year to focus less on specific destinations and more on various activities like trail hiking, bicycling, the craft beer industry and sightseeing.
“The No. 1 thing people want to do when they come to Michigan is sightseeing,” he said. “It’s that simple. We don’t have to over think this. We know that people want to do sightseeing, No. 1, and the two things that they’re most likely to do when they come here, they’re going to eat and they’re going to shop. So, what do you do? Give them places they can do those experiences, as well.”
One challenge Travel Michigan is working on is the state’s promotional website, michigan.org, which Lorenz said has been the most visited state travel website for about the past decade.
“That really shows the power of the Pure Michigan brand and the branding effort,” he said. “The problem is, once they got to michigan.org they couldn’t find a darn thing. It was a bad website.”
Lorenz said the site was overhauled in January to make it more user-friendly, with updates and tweaks still being made in the next few months.
Advertising is only part of a thriving tourism industry, Lorenz said, as the people who actually work in the hotels, restaurants and shops that people visit need to deliver on the promise tourists see in the advertisements.
“What you do every day in your businesses — and it doesn’t matter if you’re in a coffee shop or if you’re an accountant or whatever you do — we are all in the travel industry, and if all we do is be as hospitable as we can be when we see people on the street … that’s a huge role that you play in making sure that people know that this community is open to folks and that we welcome them,” he said, later adding, “We can tell the story that Michigan is a beautiful place all day long, we can show beautiful pictures, but when they come here, if they don’t feel like they’ve had a good time or they’ve been welcomed, they won’t come back, and we will have not had lived up to that Pure Michigan promise.”
Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.