Strong summer tourism season expected

A display at the Marble Arms Exhibit, located within the Delta County Commerce Center, displays information about car camping in the 1920s. “Inventing the Outdoors: The History of Marble Arms” provides information to tourists on the life and legacy of Webster Marble in the Upper Peninsula.The entire Upper Peninsula proves itself to be a popular tourist destination for those seeking a milder summer climate with an abundance of outdoor activities. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Andie Balenger)

ESCANABA — The start of the summer season is on the horizon and businesses and recreation areas throughout the area are preparing to welcome tourists looking to explore the region. The entire Upper Peninsula proves itself to be a popular tourist destination for those seeking a milder summer climate with an abundance of outdoor activities.

“Delta County has hundreds of miles of shoreline and tourists enjoy taking advantage of everything that comes with all the freshwater and the natural environment we are surrounded by,” Robert Micheau, CEO of Visit Escanaba, said. “They frequent our beaches, trails, parks … all the things associated with outdoor recreation.”

Visit Escanaba, the destination marketing organization for Delta County under Travel Michigan, has found Delta County makes the perfect pit-stop for tourists traveling about the U.P. on their summer vacation.

“[A] big draw to the area is our restaurants and hotels,” Micheau said. “Delta County is a perfect stop for tourists to enjoy local retail opportunities at restaurants and shops.”

Of the many outdoor recreation areas located within Delta County, Fayette Historic State Park on the Garden Peninsula is the most popular site for families and photographers. In addition to the historical aspects of the park, trails and campsites are available to those looking to spend additional quality time in the area.

Beyond that of outdoor activity, Delta County boasts a number of summer events as well.

“The U.P. State Fair is the biggest event in the Upper Peninsula, so that is always the big draw,” Micheau said. “There are loads of festivals and farmers markets as well … that draw people here in the summer.”

Tom Nemacheck, executive director of the Upper Peninsula Travel & Recreation Association (UPTRA), provides insight on the summer tourist season and the alluring nature of the U.P. to non-natives.

“Our outdoor product and recreation is what draws people in the most,” Nemacheck said. “Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has been the number one tourist attraction for at-least the past 10 years in the Upper Peninsula. It has been a repeated success for the tourist industry.”

While the northern shores of the Upper Peninsula continue to be the biggest draw, there are several outdoor areas scattered throughout the U.P. that tourists enjoy throughout the summer months. Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise Township, the Porcupine Mountains in the northwestern U.P., and the Keeweenaw Peninsula also appeal to sightseers, hikers, and travelers in the region.

Educational and historical features within the Upper Peninsula attract tourists as well. While museums are typically not the sole reason that families travel to the U.P. on summer vacation, they are an amenity that accompany the vacation experience and subsequently draw in money for the local economy.

“The Keeweenaw Peninsula goes beyond an outdoor product,” Nemacheck said. “The Keeweenaw National Historical Park is dedicated largely in part to the copper industry and mining history that defines the region.”

The Upper Peninsula is a predominantly drive-in destination for tourists, meaning that people who are 10-12 hours out from the U.P. choose to drive here for summer tourist activities. With the Mackinaw Bridge to the east, summer tourists are primarily traveling from Lower Michigan, along with bordering states like Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio.

With visitors choosing the drive, the recent rise in gas prices is set to have an effect on the success of this summer tourist season. While UPTRA is expecting the tourist industry to take a hit from the level of inflation and gas prices, they are currently unsure of how large that impact will be.

“It is still too early to tell how the price of gas is going to effect the summer tourism season, but we do know that it will impact people’s attitudes toward travel,” Nemacheck said. “When deciding whether or not to come to the U.P., or how many times they plan to travel over the summer months, people will change their minds due to gas prices.”

Inflation and increased prices are placing a strain on families across the country, especially in terms of daily spending and average familial food budgets. These monetary strains are set to effect optional expenses, like travel, which are not of the utmost concern for people at the moment.

“Inflation has a major impact [on the travel market] because discretionary spending is reduced for potential customers as they are paying more for every day goods,” Micheau said. “However, the demand is so high for people that want to visit the Upper Peninsula right now, so we will likely see more travelers here this summer than previous years.”

According to Micheau, travel demand in Delta County is extremely high for the 2022 summer season, which is currently outpacing the travel demand of 2021.

“If the trend continues as it has been, we should see sustained tourism growth for the foreseeable future,” Micheau said.

With the influx of travelers over the summer months, tourism will continue to play an essential role in the success of the Upper Peninsula’s localized economy.

“In the Upper Peninsula, $2 billion are spent every year as a result of tourism. So no matter what, the amount of money brought in from tourism tremendously benefits our economy,” Nemacheck said. “Tourism provides a ton of jobs and employs thousands of people in the Upper Peninsula. These jobs make our economy so much stronger.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today