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Estler named to travel panel

Susan Estler has been the executive director for Travel Marquette since February 2018. Estler was recently appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the Michigan Travel Commission. (Photo courtesy of Travel Marquette)

MARQUETTE — An integral person in helping boost Marquette County tourism numbers will now be representing the area at the state level.

Susan Estler, executive director for Travel Marquette, was appointed to the Michigan Travel Commission by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week.

“The Travel Commission was established to promote, maintain and develop the orderly growth of the Michigan travel product,” a release states. “The Commission assists the Michigan Travel Bureau with the development of a comprehensive long-range master plan, annually assesses the activities and accomplishments of the Michigan travel bureau and works to maximum extend practicable with those private associations, nonprofit corporations, organizations or other private entities which promote tourism in this state.”

Estler said she’s honored to be appointed to the commission in such turbulent times.

“I’m obviously thrilled to be joining the Travel Commission,” she said. “I’m looking forward to expanding our work in the county and greater Michigan area and working with a variety of organizations and nonprofits. I’m happy to help enhance Michigan’s travel and tourism since it’s the state’s second largest industry. It’s an important appointment for me and I’m happy to represent Marquette and work with Destination Marketing Organizations around the state.”

Estler added that she was asked of her interest in a spot on the commission in advance, but it still came as a surprise to find out.

“I received a call from the governor’s office asking if I would be interested in being on the commission,” she said. “I certainly said I would, and I went online and completed the application. Last week is when I heard about the appointment. I’m excited, needless to say, the governor has been busy with other things. I’m very happy to be on the travel commission.”

To be appointed to the commission, candidates must be experienced in the travel, tourism and recreation industry or another field.

Estler brings over 20 years of the necessary experience, working in similar roles in Florida and Pennsylvania over the years. Estler was hired as the executive director of Travel Marquette in February 2018, and said she’s loved it here ever since.

“I love Marquette, the people of Marquette and what the destination has to offer,” she said. “If you’re going to market a destination, it has to resonate personally with you. There’s diversity as far as activities go. Within Marquette County, there’s a lot of arts and culture which resonates with me along with the beautiful outdoor activities during the winter and summer. Biking, hiking, snowshoeing, it’s beautiful what Marquette County has to offer. The people are the icing on the cake. All the independent businesses we have here, it’s an authentic destination to live, enjoy and market.”

This year has been hard on the travel and tourism industry, and Estler said current plans for Travel Marquette are more of a wait-and-see game.

“It seems like the word for the year as far as marketing goes is ‘pivot,'” she said. “You aren’t sure what’s going to be happening long-term as far as everything with COVID-19. We hope we can continue safely promoting Marquette County and bringing visitors here when it’s appropriate, and do activities that are appropriate as well. Outdoor activities lend itself to people coming here and traveling safely. We’ve had a lot of people over the summer and fall coming in and enjoying the area.

“With many of the events being canceled, you pretty much have independent travelers coming in. Many have heard of Marquette in the recent past and decided to give it a try. It has a great small town feel with big adventures.”

As far as what she hopes to accomplish on the travel commission, Estler is excited to work with the various tourism organizations and businesses that will come her way.

“Certainly representing the Destination Marketing Organizations and looking at it from that perspective,” she said. “I’ve been involved in other state organizations throughout the years, and I find that DMOs kind of have a different perspective than other tourism businesses. I’m excited to represent the U.P., Marquette and all of the things the U.P. has to offer.

“I’m also excited to work with my colleagues and finding what’s of interest to them as well. I want to be a greater voice for the U.P. and DMOs as a whole. The bottom line is that I love marketing and I think it’s really fun to be working on the state level and in the travel industry as a whole.

“It’s a huge honor for me to be on the Michigan Travel Commission. I’ve admired the work the state of Michigan has done as far as promoting tourism to the state as a whole. It’s a diverse state with everything from large international level cities to mid-sized cities and beautiful nature trails throughout the state. There’s activities you can do in nature, and that’s what attracted me here to begin with. Nothing beats being on Lake Superior.”

Patrick Brys of Traverse City, president and CEO of Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, along with Julie Rogers of Ann Arbor, director of marketing for the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, were also appointed to the travel commission along with Estler. These three take the place of Jerome Toney of downstate Howell, Jennifer Zieger of downstate Wyandotte and Julie Sprenger of Laurium, whose terms expired on Aug. 20. The commission consists of 13 total members, all of whom are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Michigan Senate.

For more information on the Michigan Travel Commission, visit www.michigan.org/industry/travel-commission.

For more information on Travel Marquette, visit www.travelmarquette.com.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is rspitza@miningjournal.net.

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