MARQUETTE - With the help of Mother Nature and the Upper Peninsula's nature-based, cost-effective vacation destinations, summer tourism revenue is expected to be up across the region for the second year in a row.
Tom Nemacheck, executive director of the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association in Iron Mountain, said figures on Upper Peninsula lodging revenue for August will not be available until the end of the month, with a clear picture of summertime tourism through the Labor Day weekend unavailable until the end of October.
But preliminary indications suggest the summer was a great one for businesses and attractions in the region.
"It looks to me that we could end up across the U.P. 6 to 8 percent over last year," Nemacheck said.
Last year, despite the economic downturn, U.P. tourism in general posted a 6 percent gain, while the state overall was down 13 percent. Coming into this year, Nemacheck would have considered marginal gains a success.
"I was thinking if we could go up some, we would be riding high and we did better than I thought," he said.
The biggest draws to the U.P. for tourism include Mackinac Island, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
Nemacheck said anecdotal information he's seen in newspaper articles about some of those places has been positive. Nemacheck has also been checking with other entities in the area and downstate too.
"I've been talking to attractions and the numbers look good," Nemacheck said.
Although tourism is up generally across the region, there are some pockets-including some destinations in the Keweenaw Peninsula-which had a flat season and didn't improve. The percent increase is an average across the U.P.
"If the region is up 8 percent it doesn't mean everybody," Nemacheck said. "Somebody could be up 15 percent too."
The expected increase of 6-8 percent this summer is building on an increase of 6 percent posted in 2009 over 2008.
Nemacheck credits several factors with this summer's success including the cost-effective, nature-based attractions of the region, good summer weather and state tourism advertising.
"Travel has been up all summer and the weather played a huge role," Nemacheck said. "Our temperatures have been out of this world."
A summer heatwave striking Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit made the U.P.'s temperatures, while still warm, seem moderate by comparison.
This is the second year of Travel Michigan's successful advertising campaign, which is cited as aiding in the tourism boost.
"Just the name 'Pure Michigan,' how does that not help the U.P.," Nemacheck asked.
Looking ahead, Nemacheck said the fall color season is shaping up to be good too, as long as the weather remains welcoming. Strong wind storms last weekend toppled some trees, but blew early enough in the season not to jeopardize the beauty of the fall color tours.
It's too early for predictions about winter.
Overall, Nemacheck said the region's tourism seems to be on the upswing.
"I think we're doing amazingly well," he said.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.